DENVER -- Broncos coach Vic Fangio admitted he still "loves his quarterbacks," but his disappointment in their conduct has not diminished. In a surprise Monday, Fangio offered that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel and Blake Bortles could face added discipline from the team even as the NFL investigates the Broncos as a repeat offender for mask violations.
I asked Fangio if he was considering a suspension or a fine.
"Everything is on the table," Fangio said, adding he was leaning towards a fine.
There is a fine schedule for breaches in COVID protocols for everything from forgetting to wear the Kinexon tracing device or not wearing a mask on the field. Will the Broncos view the quarterbacks' actions as elevating to conduct detrimental to the team? If that is applied, a player can lose a game check if found to be irresponsible.
Through video submitted by the team, the NFL ruled Lock, Rypien and Bortles ineligible for Sunday's game because they were identified as high-risk close contacts to Driskel, who tested positive, for not wearing masks part of the time when watching film Tuesday.
The Broncos sent over the video, per sources, on Thursday morning and expected resolution Friday. Instead, they were informed Saturday moments before practice started that Lock, Rypien and Bortles were sidelined. It left no time to prepare a functional game plan for Kendall Hinton.
Lock accepted blame Sunday afternoon.
"In a controlled and socially distanced area, we let our masking slip for an amount of time. An honest mistake, but one I will own," Lock wrote in part on Twitter. "I sincerely apologize and I fully understand why these safety precautions are so important. Doing the right thing for a majority of time is not good enough."
Lock, Rypien and Bortles tested negatively on Monday, and will return to practice Wednesday if they test negative again.
The league continues to investigate the Broncos for COVID-19 violations, leaving them facing potential additional fines. In September, Fangio was docked $100,000 and the team $250K after the league determined Fangio did not wear proper facial covering on the sidelines against the Steelers.
Fangio said Monday he still "loves his quarterbacks," comparing their mistake to one his own children might make.
Left tackle Garett Bolles said the quarterbacks understand they messed up, but that they would be welcomed back by teammates.
However, Fangio was not brushing off their actions, or pointing the finger at the league as so many have over the past 24 hours. Watching the game film likely did not help Fangio's mood. The Broncos were an easy mark without a quarterback.
Hinton, a practice squad receiver who last threw passes regularly for Wake Forest in 2015, earned universal respect for stepping into an impossible situation. He stood no chance, though, completing 1-of-9 passes for 13 yards, the Broncos' fewest since 1983. They were the first team with more interceptions (two) than completions since 1998.
The Broncos finished with six first downs and 112 yards, their fifth fewest in franchise history.
The loss dropped the Broncos to 4-7 as they creep toward their fourth straight losing season -- the last time that happened was 1963-72 -- and a fifth year as a stranger to the postseason. It also means they will likely not play meaningful games in December, not with a Sunday night game waiting against the Chiefs. Kansas City has won 10 straight against Denver, and is 19-1 over its last 20 games.
Callahan sidelined, Lindsay OK
The Broncos will face Patrick Mahomes' Star Wars offense without their best cornerback. Fangio said Bryce Callahan will miss time with a foot injury. He explained that it is a different injury than when Callahan sat out all of last season when he had second surgery to put a screw in his foot. Callahan has played well enough to be considered for his first Pro Bowl.
Phillip Lindsay prides himself on his toughness and durability, but he has had a tough go this season. He missed time with a turf toe injury, suffered a concussion a few weeks ago, and might not play this week after hurting his knee. Fangio said he "thinks" Lindsay will be available Sunday.
Lindsay underwent an MRI on his knee Monday, seeking a standard second opinion. He attempted to return to the game after jogging slightly and cutting on the sideline, but was shut down.