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COVID Wreaks Havoc on Broncos, 49ers

The weirdest season in a long, long time just got even weirder. 

We start in Denver, where every quarterback on the roster has been ruled ineligible for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Backup Jeff Driskel has tested positive and was placed on the COVID reserve list on Thursday. On Saturday, it was announced that every other quarterback on the roster -- Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Blake Bortles -- had been in close contact with Driskel without a mask and would ineligible this weekend. Broncos coach Vic Fangio said earlier this year that running back Royce Freeman would be the team's emergency quarterback; practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton also played quarterback for three seasons at Wake Forest.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco -- or, more precisely, Santa Clara -- the county has issued a ban on all contact sports over the next three weeks. The ban goes into effect on Monday, which means no practices or home games for the 49ers until December 21. That would affect two scheduled home games for the 49ers: a Monday night game on December 7 against the Buffalo Bills and a December 13 contest against the Washington Football Team. The team had no comment on Saturday afternoon. The 49ers are scheduled to play the Rams tomorrow afternoon in Los Angeles.


54 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2020, 8:20pm

2 I believe the argument the…

I believe the argument the NFL is using at the moment is that there was an outbreak of ~cases~ on Baltimore, and thus there's a higher risk of spreading the outbreak to Pittsburgh.

Denver only has the one positive at this moment, and all their high-risk close contacts are being held out.  It just happens that all their high-risk close contacts are at the same position.

Whether that argument holds water or not is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

3 And this after the Bronocs…

And this after the Bronocs already effectively lost their bye week due to the messing around early in the season (at which time it was not them with the outbreak). Yeah, they weren’t likely going to be a great team this year (maybe an interesting one at least), but they’ve really not had a lot of luck with both injuries and Covid timing.

The ability of an asymptomatic person shedding a high viral load to take out groups is one of the scarier things about Covid-19. Seen it run through my workplace in that way, despite social distancing and reduced occupancy. Good luck to everyone, hope Thanksgiving isn’t about to cause another surge for everyone in the US, and that everyone gets through Christmas. At least vaccines are looking good, and treatment has improved a lot.

11 All the other quarterbacks…

All the other quarterbacks on the roster were in close proximity to Driskel without a mask. It's really hard for me to have much sympathy for a team that won't even take basic steps to keep its players safe.

This after team president Joe Ellis had apparently a pretty serious case of Covid-19. (John Elway had it too, but it doesn't sound like his case was very severe.) The franchise as a whole has every reason to take the virus seriously, but since they don't, this is what you get.



20 I'd prefer not to be…

I'd prefer not to be judgmental about it. There have been cases at many teams over the season; it's hard to remain ultra-vigilant every second of every day. These are young, healthy men, with zero risk of dying. That doesn't justify callous disregard for protocols, but we don't know the full context, so let's keep it in perspective.

That said, I'd prefer to see some sort of 'bubbling up' by teams now. With only a month or so left of the regular season that does not seem too onerous for players/coaches and families. I guess it just isn't feasible at the drop of a hat. 

22 Without knowing exactly what…

Without knowing exactly what went on it is hard to say how close to edge of protocols the Broncos were, the problem of asymptomatic spread is very real. But what the QBs need to do in close proximity p, and presumably indoors, that can’t be done wearing a mask I don’t honestly know. If they were in medium proximity outdoors on a practice field I have more sympathy for the team. If it was indoors then just use zoom etc meetings perhaps?

One thing is am glad to see is that the NFL is supposed to have said that face shields are no longer considered enough by themselves, and this is heavily backed by research, Aerosol vectors simply fly out of the sides of face shields, making the arguably worse for those around if the wearing is asymptomatic than a face mask. I’d like to see a coach pulling the mask down to scream at players or officials become a 15 yard penalty also. I’ve been fairly impressed by the officials generally keeping masks on whilst discussing calls, and the referee lowering mask, whilst distanced, to announce the call I can understand, although with modern microphones it should not be necessary it might even be recommended due to lip reading audience. Of course after anyone pulls a mask down and puts it back up they should sanitise their hands before touching the ball...

Not sure why teams haven’t been bubbling up, many people I know in public contact and health jobs have been doing that for months, and they don’t get paid enough to make it easy to get other people to do all their shopping or have everything always delivered. It starts to reach a similar position in my head to the idiocy of any player who gets caught DIU : they can afford a driver/taxi etc service, so don’t be stupid, or so arrogant as to think it can’t affect you.

50 I'm not defending any laxity…

I'm not defending any laxity on the part of the Broncos, but the idea that people can safely go about every aspect of their normal lives if they mask up is dangerous, particularly as cases rise meaning you are more and more likely to encounter someone who is contagious. Having players spend hours in close proximity to each other, even if they are 100% fastidious about wearing their masks properly (which I tend to doubt), introduces a risk of spreading the virus, period.

It's not that I think people are wrong to point the finger at teams who aren't adhering to protocols, but it's incredibly myopic to think that the protocols are sufficient to prevent all cases.

24 If reports claiming that the…

If reports claiming that the qb trio basically lied during contact tracing, didn't adhere to requirements of tracker wearing, etc are accurate,  then it's hard to have much sympathy. 

We've been over this in these comment sections before, but why any team would allow its players to have that many high risk close contacts, particularly at the same position,  is beyond me.

Close contact definitions aren't secret and keeping real-time track,  at least approximately, of this would seem obvious. Whenever two players get close to (or into) "close contact" territory, the system just flags it and management can tage appropriate mitigation strategies. 

Just having the starting and backup at the most important position close enough to take each other out is just dumb. Keep the backup quarterback away from the starter unless under stringent and monitored conditions. 

25 "These are young, healthy…

"These are young, healthy men, with zero risk of dying."

I want to push back on that assertion a little bit.  The risk may be very low (like less than 1%), but extremely low =/= zero. 

In the spring, we had plenty of young, fit people (late teens/early 20s) who ended up in our ICU on ventilators.  Most of them survived (requiring extensive physical/occupational/speech therapy to get back to their normal lives), but not all.

Your overall point is valid about being judgemental.  I sometimes let my frustration about some people's cavalier attitude about the pandemic bubble up, but I also try to remember that humans are a social species, isolation is hard on most people, and people are being asked to do things they've never been asked to do before.

27 In addition, even minor…

In addition, even minor cases are leading to reductions in lung capacity significantly beyond the initial disease stage. I won't say "long term", since we don't really know at this stage.

Not sure how well an NFL player would do with a 20% reduction in lung capacity...

32 It's less dangerous than the…

It's less dangerous than the flu to young, healthy people. Nobody worries even a little if a young, healthy person gets the flu. You, like most who have promoted panic, use anecdotal stories to try to prove your point. Anecdotes are, of course, essentially worthless evidence.

34 "Nobody worries even a…

"Nobody worries even a little if a young, healthy person gets the flu."

I do worry a little bit, because I've seen things go sideways, but perhaps I have a different perspective.  

"You, like most who have promoted panic..."

I don't recall ever saying we should "panic".  You should avoid putting words into peoples' mouths.  All I said was that "very minimal risk" is not equal to "zero".  Not sure what was so difficult to comprehend about that.

The comparison to Flu is a tired argument that's easy to dismiss.  Sure, flu can be dangerous too (I've also lost young, previously healthy patients to the flu), but its less contagious and the volume of cases much less than COVID. 

Even during one of the worst flu seasons in recent times (2009-2010 H1N1): there were only a little over 2000 deaths in the U.S.  (about 20% of adult deaths and 35% of child deaths were patients who had no previous medical conditions). 

The issue is the volume of cases, so even if each individual is at relatively low risk compared to the flu, the sheer number of cases (and subsequently, deaths) will increase the risk on a population level.  To put it in sports terms, certain strains of influenza has a higher DVOA than COVID, but COVID has a much higher DYAR due to "higher usage" if you will.

35 Source?

Please cite a source for the statement that "it's less dangerous than the flue to young, healthy people".  I just tried to look that up and can't find anything that definitively states so.

It is true that for *children* ages 5-17, there have been fewer hospitalizations, complications, and deaths from COVID-19 than from the flu during the 2018-2019 flu season.  However, that stat is not terribly useful because its citing deaths overall, not per infection.  We didn't close schools, enforce mask wearing, and limit social contact for the 2018-2019 flu season, whereas schools have been closed since March due to COVID.  Also, COVID is feared to be (like the flu) less dangerous during summer months than winter months. Therefore, it's not a valid comparison; children have had significantly less exposure to COVID-spreading situations (at least so far...that may be changing) than to the flu. So based on what I read, I don't know that one can conclude that it is less dangerous than the flu for children.

I can't find any data on the relative hospitalization rates or death rates for twenty-somethings.

And it is of course *much* more contagious than the flu, so even if the death rate per infection is half or a quarter that of the flu, it could be worse overall to "young healthy" people because more get infected.

Also, as others have pointed out, we know the flu seldom has long term consequences.  We have no clue if COVID does... and early data suggests that it might, even in "young healthy people".

Finally, I want to push back on your comment that "nobody worries even a little if a young, healthy person gets the flu".  As a parent, I worry like crazy if one of my kids gets the flu (one got it last year, as we were late getting family flu shots).  Flu kills a disturbing number of children each year.  


37 Covid return protocol

In reply to by MJK

Here in Hungary the protocol says that after Covid infection athletes get back their medical permit if they get a cardiology checkup. My son plays ice hockey, he's 15. He had about 3 days of sore throat and light temperature, still he had to go to the sports hospital for the checkup. That's because there is record of serious liver, heart complications arising from Covid. I'm happy that they set up this protocol.

36 I'm not basing my comments…

You appear to be solidly in denial. Why should we believe your baseless claims instead of the WHO, CDC, peer reviewed papers in leading journals, etc?

I explicitly stated that we don't know about the true long term effects, but the risk of symptoms like reduced lung capacity persisting far beyond the initial stage of the disease is real and documented:



20% of healthy 18-34 year-olds reported prolonged symptoms.

Covid-19 may increase risk of:

"Damage to lung tissue and restrictive lung failure"

(among many other things)

"COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness and persistent symptoms, even in young adults and persons with no underlying medical conditions who were not hospitalized"



"While most persons with COVID-19 recover and return to normal health, some patients can have symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness. Even people who are not hospitalized and who have mild illness can experience persistent or late symptoms."



"The extent and severity of the long term respiratory complications of covid-19 infection remain to be seen, but emerging data indicate that many patients experience persistent respiratory symptoms months after their initial illness."



"Lung function abnormalities were detected in 14 patients" [of 55]



"All these findings suggest that in the future there could be a non-negligible proportion of patients, possibly of young age, in need of thoracic RT and with undiagnosed pre-existing cardiopulmonary damage from asymptomatic COVID-19. "



"In the lungs, scientists have reported cloudy white areas called “ground glass opacities” in asymptomatic patients. Ground glass opacities are also seen patients with more severe COVID-19.

Across four different studies of people with asymptomatic infections, about half have had ground glass opacities on CT scans."

41 Per the CDC, the Flue for…

Per the CDC, the Flue for the 2018-2019 flu season killed an estimated 34,200 people, with no lockdowns, facemasks, etc. 

In less than 1 year, with lockdowns, social distancing, etc, Covid has killed an estimated 266000 people. Can we stop denying facts, and accusing others of promoting panic? Without modern medicine, this thing would likely be up there with the large pandemics of history. It's a big deal, and we should acknowledge that. 

47 Another easy way to see how…

Another easy way to see how serious a situation we are in is to look at what has happened when the virus spreads with no precautions / mitigations / restrictions in place. Think back to the images coming out of Northern Italy early on, with hospitals swamped and people dying in the hallways and waiting rooms. Saying "let's just ride it out, it isn't so bad" means playing out those scenes everywhere. (Staying the "ride it out" course is obviously completely impossible once that happens. Even if the government decided to do nothing, people would panic and isolate - and the economy would crater.)

48 Exactly. Assertions like…

Exactly. Assertions like what was made in comment 32 are so easily refuted that at this stage of the pandemic it's impossible to believe they're being made in good faith.

We can debate the right response to the virus, to a certain extent (I would argue that it's impossible to defend the US's near-total lack of response), but outright denials of the underlying facts are incredibly dangerous and should not be tolerated.

6 Depends on how you define …

Depends on how you define "emergency" here, but you could argue it was Tom Tupa in 1999, who by that point was just a punter, coming in to play two quarters of football because of Bill Parcells playing games with the old third quarterback rule.  Tupa was listed as the backup, with Rick Mirer as the emergency guy, so Parcells could get an extra spot on the roster for someone who would play.  But because Vinny Testaverde got hurt so early, putting Mirer in would have cost Parcells Tupa for the rest of the game, and playing without a punter isn't great, either.  Mirer came in in the fourth quarter, when third QBs could be swapped in and out without losing QB1 and QB2.

Short of that, I think it's still Brian Mitchell in the bodybag game in 1990, though insert joke answers of Tim Tebow and Joe Webb as needed.

12 Baltimore Colts RB Tom Matte…

Baltimore Colts RB Tom Matte started a playoff game at quarterback in 1965, after Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were both hurt. And it almost worked; the Colts lost to the eventual NFL champion Packers in overtime.

30 I remember that game well. …

I remember that game well.  I missed my flight home that day, because I wanted to see the end of the game and assumed I'd be able to get a standby flight later (oops).

Funny thing is, Tupa was playing pretty well, and if Parcells stayed with him, the Jets would have likely won.  Mirer was a shitshow once they put him in.

5 Sounds as though the Saints…

Sounds as though the Saints have lost a significant chunk of their OL to Covid as well. Not sure it will be a good game, but it sure could be memorable!

7 What kind of game plan do…

What kind of game plan do you call if you're the Broncos? I would think a pure wild cat approach would make the most sense in this situation, even though it's highly unlikely it was practice at all to this point

8 I have been thinking about…

I have been thinking about how the NFL and the NBA compare with respect to covid. And I think the biggest difference that works in the NFL's favor is that outside of a few quarterbacks, the rest of the players largely don't matter to the viewing public. This is in sharp contrast to the nba which has around 20 players that if they were out, it would severely ruin the product. 

10 Wow

DEN-NO game will have no QBs the entire game.

26 Some random practice squad…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Some random practice squad wide receiver named Kendall Hinton will start at QB (he was apparently the backup QB for Wake Forest).  I'll be watching this game out of morbid curiosity.

42 Worst QBs ever?

Am watching because . . . I'm not sure.

Appreciate that the coaching staff is doing what they can.  Broncos will not score unless on defense or special teams.  Still, Broncos plus the points might not be such a bad bet, as Taysom Hill is . . . bad.

13 Betting line on Broncos…

Betting line on Broncos-Saints opened at Denver +5.5 and is now Denver +14.5.


Gone to a Broncos forum and they're in whataboutery as most other teams with starting QB issues has had game postponed, they have no QB and game continues on. Most say the team should just forfeit. I can't say I totally disagree. I am a Broncos fan, I know our season is done and we're not making playoffs anyway, but conpare the league here to how they're treating Baltimore's situation. I don't care who they put back there, there's no way a practice squad wide receiver can do an offensive game plan beyond wildcat and hand offs.

19 I'm surprised you can still…

I'm surprised you can still bet the game to be honest. It's hard to see how the Broncos will be competitive, with no viable QB and no time to prepare.

The league surely has some contingency plan in place to add an extra week or two to the regular season. Now would seem a good time for this to be enabled.

28 Broncos inquired to the…

Broncos inquired to the league on if they could suit up one of their two assistant coaches that were former QBs. League ssid no. While no longer being active players, they would've at least had the benefit of knowing the playbook while this guy Hinton won't.

I've hit the point of this stuff based on how things are going will be happening in the NFL playoffs and the college major bowl games. And imagine how fans and the media will react to say the starting QB and some others being ruled out in the week of the CFP National Championship Game or Super Bowl - almost no one outside of the winning team's partisans will accept the result as far as "this was the better team". 

It's one man's suggestion to this website your DVOA, DYAR rankings, etc. are worthless for this season and they should be chucked in a trashcan for the same reason you officially chucked the first 3 games of the 1987 season in the trashcan. You're no longer comparing apples to apples.

40 If I were going to bet this…

If I were going to bet this game, I'd take the Broncos at +14.5. They still have a good defense, and the Saints still have Taysom Hill at quarterback, so how many points are the Saints likely to get? 17? 20? Can't see many more than that.

31 quarantine rule

SF may have a bigger problem.  I understand that there is a 14 day quarantine rule in the County, if you return from more than 150 miles.  So, after they return from a road game they must quarantine - i.e. no practices for 14 days.  My bet is they are looking at moving all operations out of County, but that would be tough on players/families if they move out of state.  

52 You'd think so, but…

You'd think so, but apparently they are going to play three straight weeks in Arizona (two as the home team, and then once as the visitor against the Cardinals). Oakland would seem to make more sense, and would let players and coaches still live at home, though you wonder if the 49ers considered it a benefit to have an excuse to isolate everyone. It's probably also less likely that they be hit by an expanded sports ban in Arizona than in California.

33 I know the NFL is trying to…

I know the NFL is trying to distinguish this situation from the others in which games got moved, but this seems to be punitive to the Broncos. Putting a practice squad WR (who hasn't been a regular QB since he was a freshman in college) seems like an injury risk not only to him but the running backs who are going to take nothing but handoffs all game with a defense knowing they are coming.

38 Punt early, punt often. It's…

Punt early, punt often.

It's rare in the modern era to punt on anything by 4th own, but DEN should consider doing so anytime the down-and-distance get away from them.  Which could be often.

Job one for this game is to get out alive with as few injuries as possible.

43 Sadly, Hail Mary is not much…

Sadly, Hail Mary is not much of a threat with no quarterback.  Easily defended without a real arm against you.


Given what you do, hoping that all is well.  Difficult times.

51 Glad to hear it.  Don't know…

Glad to hear it.  Don't know exactly where you are, but most of the numbers I see are far more troubling than the spring.  Still there is light.  The Pfizer and Moderna m-RNA vaccines are rolling out, with frontliners like yourself first in line (as it should be).  That's a first step,but only  . . .

Sorry.  You aren't here to talk shop (especially with the likes of me).  You are here for football.  So . . .  Kendall Hinton deserves three game balls.  Because he was good?  No.  He was awful.  Because when he was asked to step up for his brothers, he said "yes".  And then gave an effort that I promise every member of that locker room could get behind.  I don't know what Mr. Hinton's future is as a receiver in the NFL, but I know acceptance in the locker room is not going to be a hindrance.


54 Yea, I think Hinton did the…

Yea, I think Hinton did the best he could in an awful situation that he lacked the qualifications to handle. 

Like one of those movies where the both pilots in a commercial airliner are dead/incapacitated, and some unqualified person with no/minimal pilot experience is being asked to land the plane.  No matter what happens, that person should be lauded for at least trying to step up.

45 A suggestion...

Perhaps the subject line of the story should be changed from 'COVID Wreaks Havoc on Broncos, 49ers' to 'COVID Wreaks Havoc on World'

I'm not sure what's confusing to people about the phrase 'global pandemic', but the fact that the NFL is playing any games at all is amazing - that some things are going wrong, is to be expected

Speaking as a 49ers fan, I'm just happy to watch some football - any football.  I absolutely don't care who wins or loses - just playing games takes my mind off my day job, which is the purpose of entertainment

53 Not true  A pandemic is…

Not true 

A pandemic is defined as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”.2 The classical definition includes nothing about population immunity, virology or disease severity. By this definition, pandemics can be said to occur annually in each of the temperate southern and northern hemispheres, given that seasonal epidemics cross international boundaries and affect a large number of people. However, seasonal epidemics are not considered pandemics.

(Emphasis mine)



49 I have said all year that we…

In reply to by David

I have said all year that we don't deserve professional sports. (Although after watching the Bears last night, I'll amend that to say that watching the Bears try to execute an offense is exactly what we deserve this year).

Apart from the risks incurred by the players, coaches, and support staff, there is the very real impact that allocating tens of thousands of tests to pro athletes is having on the general public.