ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos learned a painful lesson last year when they were forced to play a game without a quarterback. So, they’re isolating third-stringer Brett Rypien as a precaution with the new, highly transmissible form of COVID-19 leading to a spike in infections across the NFL.

Coach Vic Fangio said Friday that he decided to make Rypien the team’s “quarantined quarterback” this week.

“He was not in the meetings, he was in virtual meetings, and when he was out here on the field, he was under strict orders to not be near anybody,” Fangio said.

All week, Rypien was standing far away as starter Teddy Bridgewater and backup Drew Lock took snaps at practice. The Broncos (7-6) host the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) on Sunday.

Lock missed a game earlier this season while on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Broncos implemented advanced protocols on their own several weeks ago. This week, the league ordered all teams to take extra precautions. The omicron strain of COVID-19 has led to a substantial increase in cases across the league and forced the NFL to move three games this weekend.


Although they’re not isolating anybody other than Rypien, “we’ve emphasized with everybody to spread out on the practice field,” Fangio said. “We’re meeting in the (spacious indoor practice facility) and we’re way spread out. The key is that the tracker device doesn’t flash.”

Fangio declined to designate a “quarantined quarterback” last season, a decision that backfired when the league disqualified all of his quarterbacks over coronavirus concerns on the eve of Denver’s Nov. 29 game against the New Orleans Saints.

Lock, who was then the starter, his backup Rypien and practice squad veteran Blake Bortles were found to have been maskless around No. 3 QB Jeff Driskel before he tested positive for COVID-19 on Thanksgiving Day.

The Broncos had to promote receiver Kendall Hinton from their practice squad — he had made five starts at quarterback at Wake Forest — and gave him the bulk of the snaps in a 31-3 loss to the Saints.

Hinton completing more passes to the Saints (two) than he did to his own receivers (one) while posting a passer rating of zero. But he drew praise from teammates and opponents alike and his wristbands and the play call sheet from the game ended up in a display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This summer, Hinton lined up at defensive back in his quest to make the Broncos’ roster any way he could, but he made the team as a receiver and has caught 13 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown.


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