The Denver Broncos are starting undrafted rookie practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, but the team wanted their starting QB to be Rob Calabrese, their offensive quality control coach for the past two years, sources told ESPN on Sunday.
Denver felt that Calabrese had the strongest command of its offense and he could run the system better than anybody, sources told ESPN. The league denied those requests that were made throughout the day Saturday, saying that the Broncos could not activate a coach to their active roster. The league doesn't want coaching staffs being storage areas for potential players, sources said.
While the team and some of its players took to social media to make light of the quarterback situation for Sunday's game, Hinton, who was the quarterback at Wake Forest for three seasons, was elevated from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement.
As a quarterback at Wake Forest, Hinton completed 133-of-253 passes for 1,504 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 1,059 yards with 12 touchdowns on 188 carries.
The Broncos also repeatedly asked the NFL to push Sunday's game back to Tuesday to allow some of their quarterbacks to come off the reserve/COVID-19 list, sources told ESPN.
Commissioner Roger Goodell denied those requests, much to the chagrin of the Broncos, who felt the league was being unreasonable, sources told ESPN.
The Broncos' three eligible quarterbacks -- Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles -- were each deemed to be high-risk COVID-19 close contacts and none of the three can be in uniform for Sunday's game, the team announced on Saturday night.
Denver's statement didn't say who the players came in contact with, but sources told ESPN it was quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and was moved to the team's reserve/COVID-19 list later that day.
Lock, Rypien and Bortles, who is on the practice squad, were pulled off the field early in Saturday's practice and told to isolate at home after contact-tracing concerns had arisen, sources told ESPN. The three were discovered to have not worn masks at one point during contact with Driskel, team sources told ESPN, but it was unclear whether that occurred during practice or a meeting.
The Broncos are also bracing to be fined and have a draft pick taken away as the team is under investigation by the league for not adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, sources told ESPN.
If penalized, the Broncos would be considered repeat offenders as coach Vic Fangio was fined $100,000 earlier this season for not wearing his mask.
ESPN's Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.