Broncos to face Saints without QB Drew Lock, both backups after all were deemed high-risk contacts

In the midst of a season that's been unlike any other, the Denver Broncos enter Week 12 saddled with an unprecedented set of circumstances.

Starting quarterback Drew Lock and backups Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles have been ruled out for Week 12 after being deemed high-risk close contacts to fellow QB Jeff Driskel, NFL Network's James Palmer reported Saturday, per an informed source. Driskel was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday after receiving a positive test result.

Palmer and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported earlier in the day that the three QBs were pulled from Saturday's practice to be further evaluated as part of close contact tracing linked to Driskel. A couple of hours later, a stunning reality set in: The Broncos will face the 8-2 Saints with zero active QBs on the roster.

Denver later issued a statement confirming that the club was informed of the status of Lock and his remaining backups shortly before Saturday's practice, and that all three have tested negative for the virus and are not showing symptoms.

"With NFL/NFLPA protocols mandating a five-day quarantine period for high-risk close contacts, we were informed by the league that Lock, Rypien and Bortles will be ineligible to participate in Sunday's game against New Orleans," the statement read in part. "We will continue to work closely with the NFL whenever there is a positive COVID-19 case, including sharing all available information in a thorough and timely manner to ensure the safety of our team."

Rapoport reported, per an informed source, that practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton is expected to play plenty at the position in light of the unique turn of events. Running back Royce Freeman, who is considered Denver's emergency QB, could also be involved in the game plan, per Palmer.

Lock issued an apology Sunday afternoon and accepted responsibility for making a mistake and letting "our masking slip for a limited amount of time."

The Broncos officially elevated Hinton from the practice squad on Sunday morning.

An undrafted rookie out of Wake Forest, Hinton played QB during the first four of his five years in the program before switching to WR. His last meaningful snaps came in October 2017 against then No. 2 ranked Clemson. Hinton went 14-of-30 for 203 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions, and added 92 rushing yards on 24 carries in a 28-14 loss.

Sitting at 4-6 and currently on the outskirts of the AFC playoff picture, Denver's game against New Orleans figured to be an afterthought for most. The unforeseen lineup change certainly makes the contest more of a "must-watch" affair.

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