ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — During the Broncos' third preseason game, Drew Lock took the field early in the second quarter and led Denver's offense on a 13-play, 57-yard scoring drive that chewed more than eight minutes off the clock.
It was a monumental step for the rookie quarterback, who faced a big adjustment when he joined the Broncos in April as a second-round pick out of Missouri.
The previous two preseason displays had hardly been perfect, but Lock showed strides during the initial drive as he completed four of his five passes on the drive.
Two drives later, Lock was knocked out of the game with a thumb injury.
The sprain to the finger on his throwing hand eventually led the Broncos to place Lock on injured reserve, and he hasn't practiced since the injury.
And these last 10 weeks haven't been easy for Drew Lock.
"Yeah, it's definitely been trying," Lock said Tuesday. "You're almost throwing to yourself — I don't know, it's just been completely different. I think I said when I first got hurt that I hadn't missed a game in my four years at Mizzou. I've had many injuries that I've always been able to fight through and this is just a freak one that I wasn't able to fight through without maybe injuring myself further. I kind of had to figure things out. There was definitely a little anxiety, a little antsiness to come back, but I've been able to talk with [Offensive Coordinator Rich] Scangarello and [Quarterbacks Coach] T.C. [McCartney] and [President of Football Operation/General Manager] John [Elway]. [They've] been able to kind of calm me down and put a plan together this whole time and it's helped me ease my mind a little bit."
That plan, according to Head Coach Vic Fangio's comments on Monday, could include activating Lock from injured reserve as early as this week to serve as the team's backup quarterback against the Browns.
Lock, who said his thumb is "healed up" and that he's been cleared for the last two weeks, wants to be out on the practice and game fields as soon as possible. But he also said he trusts the organization's plan to help prepare him for the moment when he is eventually able to return to the active roster.
"When I come back, they want to give me some practice reps before they put me into a game without even practicing a little," Lock said. "I think they have an awesome plan and whenever they feel like they want to put that plan in place, I'll be good."
Until that day arrives, Lock said he'll continue to use virtual reality aids and stick with the routine he's used for the last 10 weeks. That includes watching each practice twice over, taking notes on Joe Flacco's insight and preparation and relying on Brandon Allen to help push him.
Lock said he also sees the benefit of returning to the practice field ahead of being thrust into game action.
"The progress I made from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3 [in the preseason], I think I can further that progress with a little bit of practice then going into games and kind of getting the feel for it," Lock said. "If I didn't have those preseason reps, I wouldn't have been able to learn the things I did, wouldn't have been able to go out and play a little better in that San Fran game until I obviously got injured. Being able to go back and practice, kind of get my feet back underneath me, start to recall some things actively and physically doing it instead of just watching it on a screen, I think that will be big for me."
But Lock made one thing clear during his media availability on Tuesday: As soon as the Broncos give him the go ahead, he'll be ready to compete.
"I'll always be a confident guy," Lock said. "I'm ready whenever. Whenever they're ready, I'll be ready. I don't know, I've been in this league for, what is it? It's been eight weeks, nine weeks, whatever, [so] they know a lot more about this league than I do and they know a lot more about timing and this whole process.
"I trust them, like I said, but they'll get a confident guy whenever they call my number up."