The NFL made it through a full 2020 season, despite the many positive tests and hurdles to clear to get there. Perhaps the most notable outbreak came within the Denver Broncos locker room at mid-season, sidelining all four of the team’s quarterbacks.
As a result, the team called up Kendall Hinton, a practice squad wide receiver, to play QB for the first time since early in his college career at Wake Forest. He gave a gutty performance, but was understandably overmatched, finishing 1-for-9 for 13 yards, adding seven yards on the ground. The team fell to the New Orleans Saints 31-3.
The Broncos pleaded with Roger Goodell for the game to be pushed to Tuesday, when it would have an actual quarterback available after they cleared quarantine as close contests. Ultimately, the league made a somewhat-controversial decision to have the game played as scheduled.
A Los Angeles Times deep-dive into the league’s handling of COVID-19 revealed the answer: the Denver Broncos quarterbacks bucked protocol ahead of the film session that led to the situation. As a result, the league opted to make them play and deal with the consequences.
Why did Goodell ignore #Broncos’ pleas to move #Saints game? Surveillance video from Denver’s facility showed QBs had tried to fool system. They had removed their contact-tracing devices and put them in four corners of meeting room, then they sat together to watch film. #Denver7 https://t.co/g2e6RJMYxm
— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) September 7, 2021
“John Elway, Denver’s president of football operations, made several frustrated pleas to Goodell to postpone the Sunday game until Tuesday, when the quarterbacks would be available,” Sam Farmer reports. “The league denied those requests because surveillance video from Denver’s facility showed the quarterbacks had tried to fool the system.
“They had removed their contact-tracing devices and put them in the four corners of the meeting room, then they sat together to watch film. That close contact automatically made them ineligible to play.”
Among the other revelations in the piece: the NFL had a secret backup plan to start a 10-week season around Thanksgiving, pushing the Super Bowl to March. Ultimately, Goodell and his team opted to push forward with the normal schedule. With vaccination rates around the league extremely high, hopefully this year features fewer interruptions, and most importantly, less risk to the health of the league’s players, staffers, and fans.