ENGLEWOOD | Quarterback Drew Lock could be out until midseason with a severely bruised throwing shoulder and whenever he does return he’ll be without his top target for the rest of the season.
Coach Vic Fangio confirmed Monday that Pro Bowl wide receiver Courtland Sutton tore his left ACL in his season debut Sunday at Pittsburgh and is done for the season.
Sutton, who had three receptions for 66 yards after missing the opener with a sprained right A.C. joint, got injured while making the tackle on an interception by Steelers cornerback Joe Haden in Denver’s 26-21 loss to the Steelers.
Sutton made the Pro Bowl last season after catching 72 passes for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns despite a turnstile at quarterback.
The 2018 second-round pick out of SMU was expecting to take another big jump this year with Lock entrenched as the starter and a better supporting cast around him that featured rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
Now, the youngsters will be asked to take on bigger roles as the Broncos (0-2) try to end a four-year playoff drought without their best offensive player in Sutton and best defender in Von Miller, who sustained a season-ending ankle injury earlier this month.
Fangio said Lock would miss “anywhere from three to four to five weeks depending upon the healing process.”
The high end of that estimate would take the Broncos through their Week 8 bye.
“There’s nothing structurally wrong with the shoulder; he just got a bad bruise there,” Fangio said. “And when it’s your throwing shoulder, it’s going to take time to heal.”
Last year, Lock missed the first three months after spraining the thumb on his throwing hand in the preseason and returned in December, going 4-1 down the stretch to win the starting job coming into 2020.
Both of Lock’s injuries came while he was scrambling in a futile attempt to avoid a sack.
But Lock, who was in a sling after the game, insisted he won’t change his style.
“I like to get out and run and I like making plays when they’re there,” Lock said. “Both times it was close and maybe I could have gotten out of it and not gotten hurt. I won’t sit here and tell you if I’m close to getting out of it and making the big play for us that I’m going to lay down and take the sack.
“I’m going to stay aggressive and try to not have these awkward things happen and fall weird. I’m going to stick true to my guns and what got me here, what helped us win a couple games last year and what’s going to help us win games this year.”
Fangio sounded like someone not exactly on board with Lock’s position.
“Well, he could have stepped up and executed, stayed with the play a little bit longer,” Fangio said. “And then once you start scrambling and anytime you hit the ground, you’re always in danger of getting hurt, particularly at quarterback with the shoulders or anything to your throwing arm can happen.”
Sutton was making his season debut at Pittsburgh after missing the opener with a sprained A.C. joint in his right shoulder that he sustained in practice 48 hours after Miller got hurt at practice.
The Broncos and 49ers are among the teams hit the hardest by a rash of injuries this season to both starters and superstars. Fangio said he believes the crush of casualties has something to do with the preseason being canceled over coronavirus concerns.
Other injured Broncos include cornerbacks A.J. Bouye (shoulder) and Davontae Harris (hamstring), running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) and defensive ends Dre’Mont Jones (knee) and DeMarcus Walker (calf).
With backup Jeff Driskel replacing Lock, practice squad QB Brett Rypien will be promoted to the active roster and the Broncos are searching for another quarterback, although because of the COVID-19 protocols, any newcomer who wasn’t in camp this summer wouldn’t be cleared quickly.
“That’s the one thing about these protocols that we have found out the hard way here,” Fangio said. “Even if we were to bring a guy in today, they’re not going to be eligible to come in and partake in meetings or practice until Friday or Saturday because they have to pass so many days of (COVID-19) tests before they’re allowed in the building.”
Fangio demurred when asked if GM John Elway might try to sign Colin Kaepernick.
“His name hasn’t come up in the brief discussions I’ve had with John at this point,” Fangio said. “I’m sure John and Matt (Russell, the vice president of player personnel) will work hard to bring somebody in here that they think will be the best fit.”
Denver hosts Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) this weekend when 5,700 fans will be allowed into Empower Field, which was empty for the opener against Tennessee last week.