ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Drew Lock stumbled during a 2019 preseason game and suffered a thumb injury, he was forced to miss 11 games on injured reserve.
Earlier this season, when he was driven into the ground by Bud Dupree during a Week 2 game against the Steelers, Lock suffered a shoulder injury that would keep him out for the rest of that contest and an additional two games.
Lock returned to practice as a full participant on Wednesday and appears poised to miss far less time than he did as a rookie. Missing those 10-plus quarters as a starter, though, was significantly more difficult for Lock than the 10-plus games. As the team's starter, each game he was forced to watch from the sideline over the last few weeks reminded him of a single poor decision and how that impacted his team.
"It was way harder than it was last year," Lock said Wednesday. "As much as you want to say we prep during the week for guys who aren't playing, you hate to put a backup quarterback in a bad spot like that. You take all the reps all of training camp and throughout the week — and then whether it was Jeff [Driskel] or Brett [Rypien] — they had minimal reps compared to what I had, and I put them both in tough spots. They had to come back and learn game plans and sometimes run plays that they hadn't ran all training camp because I was the one taking the reps. That hurt me and then even for the rest of the team, we had built chemistry throughout training camp and I feel like I kind of took that away from us by making the dumb decision and not just taking the sack."
Lock, though, could be back on the field as soon as this weekend's game against the Patriots. After practicing on a limited basis three times last week, he was a full participant on Wednesday for the first time since suffering his injury on Sept. 20.
He said after Wednesday's session that his shoulder "feel really good" and that the team has continued to increase his workload over time.
"We're still kind of going forward — today was the most volume I've had — but we've progressively gotten it higher and higher to get to the point of today where I wouldn't be sore," Lock said. "I'm going to do a little treatment after this and see how it feels tomorrow."
Head Coach Vic Fangio wasn't ready to declare Lock the starter over Brett Rypien for this weekend's game in New England and said the team will continue to evaluate the former second-round pick in the coming days.
"He got a bunch of reps today," Fangio said Wednesday. "We'll take a look at it — obviously we watched it live — we'll take a look at the video, and it will be a decision that we'll keep evaluating throughout the week. In light of these weird circumstances [in preparing for New England in consecutive weeks], Brett got the full week last week for the most part, so if we did decide to go with Brett later in the week we wouldn't feel quite as unprepared as we normally would because he did get most of the reps last week."
Rypien, who completed 19-of-31 passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in his lone start, said he would be prepared regardless of which Broncos quarterback starts in New England.
"Whatever happens as far as the game goes this week," Rypien said. "I'm just doing what they're telling me to do. I'll be there for Drew throughout this entire week helping him get prepared — as well as getting myself prepared if need be."
Lock credited Rypien for doing a "fantastic job" in his absence for being able to earn a win, but it's clear the Missouri product is eager to return to the field as the team's starter.
"I'm really excited to be back," Lock said. "It feels good to be doing what I love and doing what I was put here to do. It was great to be back with the guys, calling plays in the huddle and feeling the camaraderie of the team. It's pretty lonely when you're back there with a headset and walking through things in your head."
Lock will aim to play "clean football" in practice this week, make the proper calls and keep the level of intensity that the Broncos had in practice ahead of their scheduled — and ultimately postponed — Week 5 game.
And, if he is able to return to the field this Sunday against the New England, he'll aim to be more aware of the hits he needs to avoid to remain on the field for the Broncos.
"There is an art to it, and I've got to learn that art," Lock said. "I watched a lot of football when I was hurt, and I watched a lot of older guys and how they don't take sacks. They know they're going to get sacked, and they know where their outlet is in order to get rid of the ball, whether that's an automatic incompletion when you throw it at the running back's feet or you sail one out of bounds. It's definitely part of my game that I can get better at and I worked towards doing that while I was hurt. I couldn't really do much about it besides footwork stuff and watching technique, but starting [with] this practice and moving forward I'm still going to work on it."
GORDON'S STATUS FOR SUNDAY UNCERTAIN
Melvin Gordon III did not practice Wednesday in light of a legal situation, and Fangio said "everything's open right now" in regards to Gordon's status for Sunday.
"I didn't want him to practice today until we get to the bottom of everything," Fangio said. "[We will] talk to the league [and] get all the facts in order before we make a decision on what we're going to do and weigh the differences between what the mandated league punishment will be and anything we want to do in addition to that."
Fangio said the Broncos hope to make a decision regarding Gordon's status for Sunday's game in New England by Thursday or Friday. He also added that while the Broncos can use Gordon's situation as a learning experience, the Broncos will continue to support the sixth-year player.
"I'm disappointed, but my own two kids have disappointed me at some points in their life, but I never stop loving them," Fangio said. "He's one of us. We're going to love him, but there will be some consequences for what happened last night."
PREPPING FOR THE PATRIOTS … AGAIN
The Broncos will head into their second consecutive game week planning for New England, but Fangio said the Broncos will start the installation over rather than simply spending the week fine-tuning their plan.
"We have adjusted our meeting times and our practice schedule based upon the work we did put in last week," Fangio said. "But other than that, we're starting again from ground zero in preparation for the Patriots. Obviously, there will be some recall from the work that we did last week but we did want to start all over, albeit we have adjusted meeting times and practice because of the work that we did put in last week."