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Broncos Place 4 Key Players on COVID/Reserve List, Hold Virtual Practice

MileHighHuddle
MileHighHuddle
 2021-12-31

The Denver Broncos are not only battling for a chance to finish above .500 for the first time since 2016 but are now in the midst of fighting against a COVID outbreak on the team. The COVID hits keep coming as head coach Vic Fangio revealed that multiple players tested positive, resulting in the team opting for a virtual practice on Thursday.

“The decision was made because we have some positives today," Fangio said of the virtual practice. "Some may be false positives—we’re working through that [and] we’ll come out with a list here later today that might be on it. I just felt that we needed to hit the pause button [and] get our hands around what we’ve got here as far as numbers and roster. We’re going to hold a meeting this afternoon instead of practicing. The hope is tomorrow to have a good practice on Friday and Saturday and go out there and get us a ‘W’.”

This flurry of positive tests come a week after losing starting center Lloyd Cushenberry III, which resulted in the Broncos’ offensive line completely collapsing in Vegas. The good news, Cushenberry has been activated and should be good to go on Sunday at the Los Angeles Chargers, but the bad is, new players are testing positive.

First, it was reported that starting nose tackle Mike Purcell landed on the reserve/COVID list earlier this week along with reserve pass rusher Andre Mintze. But the number of positive tests is increasing by the day.

On Wednesday, starting wideout Tim Patrick, safety Caden Sterns, and backup offensive tackle Calvin Anderson were all placed on the reserve/COVID list, too, as Denver appeared to be on the precipice of an alarming outbreak in the locker room.

On offense, the Broncos placed starting right tackle Bobby Massie on the COVID list, first reported by 9NEWS' Mike Klis, resulting in the team’s second starter likely out this Sunday. Complicating Massie’s news is the fact that Denver will likely be without their primary backup tackle in Anderson. These moves likely result in backup Cameron Fleming getting a start at right tackle, who has struggled in pass protection dating back to this preseason.

The next in line at offensive tackle would be Quinn Bailey, who received a game ball for his efforts in the Broncos’ Week 12 win over the Chargers. With Chargers’ edge rusher Joey Bosa set to return from his stint on the COVID list, the Broncos’ offensive line might be in some trouble once again this week.

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Tyrie Cleveland is still on the COVID list so expect 2021 sixth-round rookie Seth Williams to get some reps at wide receiver with Patrick out.

On the defensive side of the ball, Broncos' starting slot corner Bryce Callahan, rotational edge rusher Stephen Weatherly (first reported by Brandon Krisztal), and reserve cornerback Mike Ford have tested positive for COVID and are on the list. The Broncos did not have Callahan the last time they met up with the Chargers, but this defense is quickly growing thin in the secondary.

Denver may have a hard time replicating its performance vs. Justin Herbert earlier this season with starting cornerback Ronald Darby (shoulder) and safety Kareem Jackson (back/shoulder) listed on the team’s injury report.

The Broncos are not alone as teams across the league are testing positive at an eye-popping rate with the emergence of the extremely infectious Omicron variant. However, with five more players testing positive on Thursday, the Broncos elected to hold a virtual practice in hopes of stopping the spread on the team.

Luckily, the season is all but over for Denver’s chances to return to the playoffs, meaning that playing some back-end-of-the-roster guys is not the biggest deal for the team and offers some utility as far as future evaluation goes. In reality, there could be a bottom-line argument that a loss to the Chargers would only push the Broncos up the 2022 NFL draft board, so it might be a preferable outcome.

Denver will still go out and try to win the game as NFL teams don’t truly tank, but the end result is not as important as it was when this squad was still in the playoff hunt. Stay tuned as the Broncos could see more positive COVID tests come in the next few days leading up to their Week 17 game at the Chargers.

Hopefully, all players that are COVID positive have short, asymptomatic infections and are feeling better in no time.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.

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