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Ready or not, Drew Lock must wait

The Broncos have delayed the practice return for the rookie QB and three other IR players (Riddick, Patrick, Butt) until further notice.
Credit: (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) runs against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL preseason football game, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The future can wait.

Even for a Broncos’ team that is 14-29 since the final quarter of the 2016 season, there is no rush to get rookie quarterback Drew Lock back on the practice field and into a game-day uniform.

Joe Flacco is the Broncos’ quarterback. That was the intent from the moment John Elway acquired him from the Baltimore Ravens in March for a fourth-round draft pick. And Brandon Allen, for all anyone knows, is fine as Flacco’s backup.

Although Lock, who has been on injured reserve because of a thumb injury on his right passing hand, has been eligible to start practicing since last week – and therefore eligible to be placed on the Bronco’s 53-man roster in time for next Sunday’s game against Cleveland – the mega-talented passer if unpolished quarterback from Missouri must remain patient.

The Broncos have not designated Lock or three other players on IR -- tight end Jake Butt (ACL), running back Theo Riddick (shoulder) and receiver Tim Patrick (hand) – to return to practice, as they could have by now.

Medically, Broncos sources say all four could use more time to heal with Lock the furthest along in his recovery. But here’s a big reason for the Broncos’ administration to hesitate on his return: Only two of these four IR players can be activated on the 53-man roster. Elway said Patrick will be one, but the receiver won’t be physically game-ready to play until after the bye week – game 10 at Minnesota at the earliest.

“It’s a little bit early but Tim Patrick will be back after the bye,’’ Elway said while addressing life without Emmanuel Sanders in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

That leaves Lock, Riddick and Butt for the other IR-to-activation spot.

The Broncos are currently 2-5. If they somehow manage to upset the Colts in Indianapolis this Sunday and Browns in Denver next week, the Broncos would be 4-5 and back in contention for the final wild-card spot heading into their bye week.

This may seem preposterously unlikely to most, but not to those employed inside the UCHealth Training Center.

If 4-5 occurs, Riddick might join Patrick as the choices for activation as, lord knows, the Broncos could use additional offensive help. Riddick, when last seen in Detroit, was a nice pass-catching threat out of the backfield. He would not take carries away from Phillip Lindsay or Royce Freeman.

But if the Broncos are 2-7 or 3-6 at the bye, Lock would likely start practicing in week 11. The plan at that point would be to practice three full weeks before Lock would be activated as a backup QB for the final four games of the season with a chance to play in the final game or two.

To rush a rookie quarterback who misses half the preseason and regular season with an injury is to do more harm than good.

Understand, plans have a way of changing on a weekly basis in the NFL.