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Broncos' red-hot topic: To activate or not activate, to play or not play Drew Lock

Fangio fields 16 Lock-related questions during 11-minute press conference Monday.
Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) looks to throw against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL preseason football game, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, in Denver.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — They were upstairs Monday morning talking about it. Discussing the pros and cons.

The Broncos’ pooh-bahs where deciding whether or not to, first, activate rookie quarterback Drew Lock on their 53-man roster this week, and secondly, play him Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.

One possibility is the Broncos do activate Lock from injured reserve this week, but have him serve as backup to Brandon Allen for the game against the Chargers. A strong case can be made this would be the most prudent approach. Take it one step at a time. But a final decision has not yet been made.

Understand, the difficulty of the decision is that playing Lock does involve some adjustment to what had been the team’s big-picture plans. The Broncos were hoping to essentially have Lock redshirt his rookie season, especially after he tore up his right passing thumb during the preseason. But then veteran starter Joe Flacco went down with a neck injury at the season’s halfway point.

The next plan was for inexperienced backup Brandon Allen to play well enough to hold off the public mob desiring Lock.

The Broncos have proceeded cautiously. Just two years ago, Chicago Bears fans clamored for first-round rookie Mitch Trubisky to replace ineffective veteran Mike Glennon. Just two years later, the majority of Bears fans seemingly want Trubisky out of there.

The Broncos’ brass has been around long enough to know it’s not how you start, or when you start. It’s that you sustain some measure of success once you do start.

Allen played very well in his NFL debut in guiding the Broncos to a win against the Browns on November 3, OK in a tough loss November 17 at Minnesota, and not well in a 20-3 loss Sunday at Buffalo.

And so with the Broncos' record sitting at 3-8, the team’s followers want Lock to play. As the No. 41 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Lock single-handedly represents hope the Broncos will have better days ahead.

As of now, the Broncos are not inclined to select a quarterback in the early rounds of next year’s draft. The team needs Lock to come through.

And so Broncos Country wants to see what the Great Quarterback Hope is all about.

Fangio understands public sentiment. If he didn’t before Monday, he did after his 11-minute, day-after-game press conference. He answered 30 questions, 16 of which were Lock-related.

Is public sentiment considered in the decision of whether to activate, or play Lock?

“No, I think we need to make the decision that we feel is best,’’ Fangio said. “Understanding everybody’s wants from your group (the media) and the group outside (the fans), but we need to make the decision that we feel is best for Drew and the team. And at that time we will.”

There are five games remaining in the Broncos’ otherwise lost season. Fangio said all options are being considered. The discussion group figures to include general manager John Elway, his top personnel assistant Matt Russell, Fangio and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello.

Lock is talented, but the hesitancy is whether he’s properly prepared to take on Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward and the Chargers’ defense this Sunday.

Because of his thumb injury, Lock has only had six practices this year – three in each of the past two weeks. He could get more practice reps this week if the Broncos’ brain trust declares it’s time to get him out there. But that’s still just three weeks of practice for a guy who got hurt in mid-August.

The team doesn’t have to activate Lock until next Tuesday when the Broncos prepare to play on the road against the AFC South-leading Houston Texans.

What is virtually certain is Lock will start the Broncos’ final two home games against the Lions and Raiders.

The question is whether he plays earlier. He could be activated this week and serve as Allen’s backup against the Chargers. This may be the safest way to bet. Lock could also be activated and start against the Chargers. This remains possible.

He could wait until next week at Houston to be activated and either start or serve the No. 2 role.

Brett Rypien, an undrafted rookie, has been the backup quarterback the past three games, although Allen has taken every snap. If Lock is activated from injured reserve to the 53, the team would likely make a corresponding move by waiving Rypien back to their practice squad. Another factor in the decision regarding Lock.

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