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Broncos coach Donatell back home after virus sent him to hospital last week

Denver's defensive coordinator has been battling the virus since October 31. He was able to walk Wednesday so he's on road to recovery.
Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell during drills at the team's NFL football training camp Friday, July 19, 2019, in Englewood, Colo

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was released from a hospital stay Sunday and has since continued his recovery from COVID at home, a source told 9News.

Donatell felt ill the morning of October 31 and reported his symptoms to the team’s medical staff and head coach Vic Fangio. Donatell, 63, was sent home and later learned he had tested positive for the virus. He has missed the Broncos’ last three games against the Chargers, Falcons and Raiders, although he has been able to participate in some virtual meetings from home.

“Obviously, when your defensive coordinator is down and out of commission it’s tough,’’ said Broncos’ linebacker Alexander Johnson in a Zoom media call Wednesday before unintentionally revealing: “I know he was in the hospital and stuff so I’m definitely sending my prayers up. We’re definitely missing him—just his morale and the energy that he has being at practice and always preaching on working on takeaways and stuff like that. So, definitely notice a difference not having him out here.”

After continuing to experience symptoms two weeks after he tested positive, Donatell was taken last Tuesday to a local hospital. He was released Sunday and team sources he is on the mend to the point he took a walk around his neighborhood Wednesday.

Ed Donatell is at home recovering after being taken to the hospital last week for COVID-19-related symptoms,’’ Broncos’ public relations boss Patrick Smyth tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “Ed is feeling much better, starting to participate in virtual mtgs & doing light physical activity. Ed is grateful for the support & looks forward to rejoining the team!”

Donatell is in his 30th NFL season as coach and third stint coaching with the Broncos. He was Mike Shanahan’s secondary coach from 1995-99 and held the same position for Josh McDaniels from 2009-10 before following Fangio from the Bears to serve as defensive coordinator last season.

Fangio calls the defensive plays and Renaldo Hill is the secondary coach but Donatell is considered pivotal to the Broncos’ defensive operation. Donatell has been Fangio’s right-hand man with the 49ers (2011-14), Bears (2015-18) and past two years in Denver.

“I’ve talked to Ed extensively—a couple times a day at least,’’ Fangio said last week. “He’s getting better. He’s going through the protocols. He’s in our thoughts here all the time. I particularly probably miss him more than anybody because Ed and I have been together for 10 years—kind of conjoined at the hip there. I miss his friendship; I miss just having him around. He knows how I think, I know how he thinks. It’s been tough not having him here obviously as a coach. We miss his coaching ability, but I miss him personally more than anything else.”

While several Broncos players, coaches and staff have tested positive for the virus in the past month, the organization as of Wednesday had gone seven straight days without a positive test, a source told 9News. Broncos defensive tackle Shelby Harris and chief executive officer Joe Ellis have been quarantined for nearly three weeks.

Harris was first isolated for a week because he was a close contact with his wife and kids who tested positive, and then Harris tested positive himself last Tuesday.

Because Harris must pass three days of conditioning starting Saturday, he will miss his third consecutive game Sunday when the Broncos play Miami.

Ellis tested positive, as did general manager John Elway, on November 3. Elway was cleared last week, but Ellis was still experiencing symptoms as of the weekend and his return to his office at UCHealth Training Center has not been determined.

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