ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Drew Lock is back. Almost.
Lock took first-team reps at Wednesday's practice. If his shoulder responds well, all signs point toward him starting Sunday at New England.
However, coach Vic Fangio did not commit to Lock, wanting to see how the week unfolds.
"It’s a medical decision, No. 1. Once he’s cleared there, then it’s my conversations with Drew that play a big part into it," Fangio said. "And then you make your comparison to where Drew’s at compared to where Brett’s at.”
Lock has not played since linebacker Bud Dupree smashed him to the ground on Sept. 20 at Pittsburgh on a first-quarter sack. The former Missouri star strained his right rotator cuff. After rest, rehab and a throwing program, he appears poised to return.
The typical absence for this injury is a month. That is where Lock will be in his recovery when the Broncos face the heavily-favored Patriots.
"When the game got pushed back to Monday night, there was another thought of playing. But when it was placed a week later, it reached that exact point where I could be full go and start slinging the ball around the yard again," Lock said. "I am really excited to be back. It feels good to be doing what I love. It's great to be calling plays again. Bret did a fantastic job when he was in there. He got us a win."
Lock understands hurdles remain to regain his job. He wants to deliver "clean, crisp" practices, while also maintaining his arm strength throughout the week. Rypien is available if Lock suffers a setback.
With playoff hopes fading, this season will focus largely on the evaluation of Lock. Is he the longterm answer moving forward? That question will grow in significance if the Broncos fail to rebound and finish with a top five or top 10 draft pick. Lock has provided a snapshot of his potential. He is 4-3 in seven starts, but failed to shine in the season-opening loss to the Titans.
Lock recognizes that he must not only play well, but remain available. He has suffered thumb and shoulder injuries in his first two seasons. Learning how to protect himself is critical. He has only been sacked six times in seven games, but he must avoid and absorb contact better when possible.
"I’m ready for the first hit just to get it out of there and let it happen and let everyone hold their breath for a couple seconds and I get up and everything’s fine," Lock said.
"I watched a lot of football when I was hurt, and I watched a lot of older guys and how they don’t take sacks. They know they’re going to get sacked and they know where their outlet is in order to get rid of the ball. Whether that’s an automatic incompletion when you throw it at the running back’s feet or you sail one out of bounds. It’s definitely part of my game that I can get better at and I worked towards doing that while I was hurt. I couldn’t really do much about it besides footwork stuff and watching technique but starting this practice and moving forward I’m still going to work on it.”
The Broncos' offense could receive a boost beyond Lock. Running back Phillip Lindsay will play after missing the past three games. With Melvin Gordon's status uncertain for Sunday following a DUI arrest, Lindsay could start. Also, tight end Noah Fant showed dramatic improvement with his high ankle sprain. After doing little activity last week, Fant practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and showed good agility during the open media viewing period.
Cornerback A.J. Bouye, out since the opener with a shoulder injury, stretched with the team when practice opened. He is eligible to return from the injured reserve list this week. It's no guarantee, but he's starting to trend in the right direction. ...
The Broncos continued to prepare as if they will face Patriots quarterback Cam Newton.