The Denver Broncos face off with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon but will do so shorthanded. The team lost quarterback Jeff Driskel to a positive COVID-19 test on Thursday and then contact tracing led to three others becoming ineligible to play. With Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles out of the lineup, the Broncos will turn to a practice squad quarterback.
Reports surfaced on Saturday that the Broncos would have to take a unique approach to Sunday's game. Running back Royce Freeman was the emergency quarterback, but he only attempted one pass during his college career. However, the team decided and opted to name Kendall Hinton as the starter for Sunday's game. The former Wake Forest quarterback will now attempt a pass for the first time in his NFL career.
While Hinton played quarterback for the Demon Deacons, he became a multi-purpose weapon. He completed 133 of his attempted 253 passes for 1,504 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. Hinton also found success on the ground with 1,059 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns.
According to ESPN, neither Hinton nor Freeman was the preferred option after the quarterbacks became ineligible to play. The Broncos reportedly wanted to start Rob Calabrese, their offensive quality control coach for the past two years. The team felt that Calabrese had the best command of the offense and could run the offensive system on short notice. However, the league denied the requests, saying that a team can't elevate a coach to the active roster.
In addition to the requests to use the offensive quality control coach as the starting quarterback, the Broncos also tried to push the game. The team asked the league to push the game back to Tuesday to allow some of their quarterbacks to come off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Commissioner Roger Goodell denied these requests, sparking several comments about how the league worked with the Baltimore Ravens but would not do the same for the Broncos.
The Ravens and Steelers had a game scheduled for Thanksgiving, but several positive coronavirus tests resulted in a change. The league initially pushed the game to Sunday before moving it once again to Tuesday. The Ravens have had 22 positive tests in recent days, including starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram, defensive lineman Calais Campbell and outside linebacker Matt Judon. The Steelers also had three positive tests, including running back James Conner.