Denver – Likely for the first time in franchise history, the New Orleans Saints will face an opponent that doesn't have a quarterback available to play, when the Saints (8-2) take on Denver (4-6) at 3:05 p.m. Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.
The Broncos will have practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton taking snaps as the starting quarterback, with running back Royce Freeman serving as his backup, due to the four quarterbacks on Denver's roster being ruled out for Sunday.
Denver confirmed Saturday that starting quarterback Drew Lock, and backups Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles, were ruled out after being deemed high-risk close contacts to quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel was placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list Thursday after receiving a positive test result.
The Broncos said in a statement that the team was informed of the quarterbacks' status shortly before Saturday's practice. All three have tested negative and are not showing symptoms.
"With NFL/NFLPA protocols mandating a five-day quarantine period for high-risk close contacts, we were informed by the league that Lock, Rypien and Bortles will be ineligible to participate in Sunday's game against New Orleans," the Broncos said.
The ineligibility likely places the playbook on the shoulders of Hinton, an undrafted rookie who last played quarterback in college at Wake Forest, hasn't thrown a pass in a game since the 2018 season and hasn't played in an NFL game.
Before playing his final college season at receiver, Hinton completed 133 of 251 passes (53 percent) for 1,504 yards and eight touchdowns, with seven interceptions. In his final season at quarterback, he completed two of eight passes.
Hinton did show promise as a runner in college, gaining 881 yards and scoring 12 rushing touchdowns on 188 carries.
Freeman, a third-round pick in 2018, has been Denver's emergency quarterback. This year, he has run for 79 yards on 22 carries and in his career, he has 1,096 yards and eight touchdowns on 284 carries.
The Saints will be missing a starter for Covid reasons as well as the team placed star left tackle Terron Armstead on the Covid-19 list Saturday. Starting left guard Andrus Peat was ruled out Friday because of a concussion. New Orleans will be trying to win its eighth consecutive game and its first win in Denver since 1994.