ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A player can be called slow, or below average, or inaccurate, even a bench warmer.
They wouldn't care for such descriptions but they could deal with them.
To really wound an elite athlete's pride, call him injury prone.
Broncos starting quarterback Drew Lock could well have to deal with such a label should he miss the game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins for what would be the third injury of his still nascent NFL career. He missed his first 11 games of his rookie season last season with a thumb injury, then most of game 2 and all of games 3 and 4 this year with a strained right throwing shoulder.
He now has a strained oblique muscle in his rib cage area, an injury that forced him to miss practice Wednesday, and split practice reps with backup quarterback Brett Rypien on Thursday.
The slumping Broncos, 3-6, will host the resurgent Dolphins, 6-3 and on a five-game winning streak, on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High before a virus-restricted crowd of 5,700.
“It does hurt missing any time, especially from a guy that didn't miss any in high school and college,’’ Lock said in his Zoom media interview Thursday. “The first couple accidents I've had--it definitely does motivate you--I think anyone that's hurt in this league realizes that the longer you're not playing, the faster you get forgotten.
“It’s just kind of always in the back of your mind. It’s a profession, it's a job, and if you're not able to do your job, then you're not helping your teammates out. That's the worst part for me is I want to be there for them. I want to lead them and I just want to be a part of a special game on Sunday and have good feeling in the locker room afterwards and have the whole shebang. You can’t do that if you're on the sidelines.”
Besides his injury, Lock’s playing status appears further muddled by his recent struggles, capped by a hide-your-eyes, four-interception mishap this past Sunday at Las Vegas in the Broncos’ 37-12 loss. He said he felt the blow to his rib area while getting blasted for a sack by the Raiders’ Nicholas Morrow early in the second quarter.
“I was feeling it, but you play football your whole life growing up you get twisted ankles, a bruise here, a bruise there, it was nothing that I wouldn't be able to go home and look my dad in the eyes and say, ‘Yeah dad, sorry, I sat out in that second half because I have bruised ribs,’’’ said Lock, who took every snap in the game. “That's not how I was raised--you know, you're going to be tough, you're going to go out there and play until they drag you off the field.”
Rypien, who has just one NFL start -- and a victorious one at that -- says he always treats his weekly preparation the same – as if he’s going to play even if the chances are slim. He added he has not received any more hints, or preferential treatment this week in light of Lock’s injury status.
“Not necessarily,’’ Rypien said in his Zoom media conference. “We were out there splitting reps today. It’s day-to-day on how Drew feels just like Vic has been telling you guys. I’m going about it like I’m playing this week. I don’t know what will happen on Sunday, but like I said, I take the same mentality every week.”
It appears Fangio will make his decision after watching Lock practice Friday. Does Lock believe he will be available?
“I would like to be,’’ he said. “I'm going to take it day by day with these doctors, the trainers and even the coaches. I'm going to let them make a decision on whether or not they want to play me or not. Obviously, I'll give my opinion and I want to play, but in the end it's not 100% up to me what happens.”