ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The new rule is there. Might as well use it.
For the third consecutive game, Broncos general manager John Elway is using his full allotment of two practice squad game-day call-ups.
Elway again promoted undrafted rookie LeVante Bellamy for the game Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bellamy was also called up last week against Pittsburgh as he was No. 3 running back insurance with Phillip Lindsay out with a toe injury. Lindsay is expected to again sit out the game Sunday against Tampa Bay.
And with rookie cornerback Michael Ujemudia struggling last week against the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and receivers Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Broncos brought up veteran corner Kevin Toliver II from their practice squad. Toliver will bring reinforcement against the Bucs passing game led by quarterback Tom Brady and receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Bellamy has now used up his two, game-day promotions without having to clear waivers on his way back down. If he is promoted again, he must be given a spot on the 53-man roster. The NFL instituted the new two-player practice squad rule for game day only as protection against a COVID-19 outbreak. Although, the Broncos have not had anyone test positive for the virus once everyone gained access to team headquarters, two practice squad players can also be called up for injured players on the 53-man roster.
Bellamy, is not expected to be needed in the Broncos’ next game – Thursday night against the New York Jets – as it appears Lindsay will return.
Melvin Gordon and Royce Freeman will again be the Broncos’ top two backs against the Bucs. Bellamy played special teams last week at Pittsburgh but did not get a carry. He rushed for 1,472 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior for Western Michigan last year.
Toliver was undrafted out of LSU in 2018 when he signed with the Bears, whose defensive coordinator at the time was Vic Fangio and secondary coach was Ed Donatell. Fangio is now the Broncos’ head coach and Donatell is his defensive coordinator.
Toliver played all but five games the past two seasons with the Bears, usually as a No. 4 corner who at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds plays on the outside. He’s familiar with the Fangio/Donatell system and the Broncos are in need of his experience as Brady otherwise figures to look Ujemudia’s way.
In the Broncos’ first two games, Elway called up rookie outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka and first-year safety P.J. Locke from the practice squad in game 1 against Tennessee with Tuszka and Bellamy the promoted for game 2 against Pittsburgh.
Tuszka has returned to the Broncos’ practice squad as the team recently signed veteran outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo to its 53-man roster. Locke was promoted to the 53-man roster Thursday morning.
The Broncos have four quarterbacks on their roster – one or two more than usual – because they have not given up on Drew Lock returning for their week 5 game at New England.
Lock suffered a strained rotator cuff in the Broncos’ game last Sunday at Pittsburgh. At the time, estimates of his recovery length were 2 to 6 weeks from team sources, to 3 to 5 weeks as pronounced by head coach Vic Fangio. Sources had told 9News that the Broncos’ week 7 game against the Chiefs on October 25 at Empower Field at Mile High was Lock’s most hoped-for return – or a four-week injury.
But by not putting Lock on injured reserve – which this year requires only a three-week minimum stay – the Broncos kept open the possibility their quarterback would only miss two games. Nothing will be determined until Lock tests his shoulder through a comprehensive throwing program.
Lock won’t play Thursday against the New York Jets in New Jersey, which will be his second missed game. But starting next Monday, October 5, Fangio will start getting questions as to whether Lock will be ready for the game at New England – even if currently that seems to be a longshot possibility.
Visitors may be better off with hostile fans
The deduction seemed reasonable. The finding was contradictory.
With few exceptions, the NFL schedule opened before empty stadiums through the first two weeks of the season.
It figured that no fans would negate a portion of home-field advantage, right? Not so far.
Through two weeks, road teams were 13-19 (.406 winning percentage).
Last year, road teams posted a 123-132-1 record (.482).
Granted, such research is incomplete. More data is needed as early matchups can be skewed compared to a full schedule.
Problem is, many teams, like the Broncos, are starting to bring in a limited number of fans in week 3 or 4 with hopes of gradually increasing the crowd sizes with each game. So there may never be a true apples to apples comparison.
But the early results have only reinforced what’s been more or less true for 100 years: It’s the quality of teams, not fans in the stands, that primarily determines a game’s outcome, whether playing at home or on the road.
The Broncos are home this Sunday against Brady and the Bucs. A sellout crowd of 5,700 in a 76,125-seat stadium is expected. The Broncos are 0-1 at home; the Bucs are 0-1 on the road.