DENVER -- Exercising caution after consultation with the league, the Broncos scrapped practice Wednesday, and will meet virtually as they attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the organization.
"This was the safe and responsible thing to do," the Broncos said in a statement.
The decision comes after the Broncos added a practice squad player to the COVID-19/reserve list Wednesday, 24 hours after top ranking officials, CEO Joe Ellis and general manager John Elway, learned they had the virus. The Broncos have been hit hard over the past 18 days. Three assistants -- running backs coach Curtis Modkins, offensive line coach Mike Munchak and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell -- two executives, two players (right guard Graham Glasgow and a practice squader Darrin Paulo) and several employees have tested positive.
Defensive end Shelby Harris was also placed on the COVID-19 restricted list on Wednesday afternoon. He continues to test negative, but informed team that he came into contact with someone outside the building who has tested positive. It places his status for Sunday in jeopardy, but he correctly followed protocol to prevent potential transmission among teammates.
"One of the things I feel good about is that none of the tests have come from the building. I feel real confident in saying that all the positive tests have originated outside of these walls," Fangio said.
"It's been distracting. It's not ideal. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. But we're of the mindset when we started this year knowing we were going to have to do some improvising and adjusting. We've done well with it so far. When you first get the news that you can't do this and you can't do that, you're a little pissed off. But you take a few minutes, take a deep breath and figure out how we're going to beat it and get over this and that's what we do."
The Broncos will resume practice on Thursday, pending test results.
During a Tuesday conference call, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's Chief Medical Officer, called the several positive cases for the Broncos "a concerning situation for us." The league has maintained contact with the Broncos over the last two-plus weeks, saying Denver has cooperated and "done an excellent job" with its intensive protocols, which the Broncos have remained in since Modkins' positive test before the Patriots game on Oct. 17.
"At this point, we feel there’s not ongoing transmission among the players," Sills said.
Broncos coaches worked remotely Tuesday as they began game preparations for Sunday's game at Atlanta. The next few days will be important for Broncos because of travel and being in close quarters on the airplane. If a player is not feeling well -- even without a positive test -- he is not allowed to travel. So being healthy as of Saturday is critical.
This represents the second time in a week that the Broncos have canceled practice. They went virtual last Friday after Glasgow's positive test. The Broncos' attention to protocol, including mask wearing, has helped them in close contact tracing, which has yet to sideline players from a game.
Broncos coach Fangio made the decision to go virtual last week, which proved wise after Donatell tested positive. Fangio expects Munchak to return to practice on Thursday. He said sometimes a physical day off can help, but it creates challenges.
"I don't like that they are not together," Fangio said. "The players are safer in the building than when they are not in the building."