Behind Enemy Lines: Broncos activate OLB Randy Gregory, OL Billy Turner vs. Cardinals

Dec 17, 2022, 8:02 PM | Updated: Dec 18, 2022, 2:55 pm

Randy Gregory #5 of the Denver Broncos reacts after a play during the first half against the San Fr...

Randy Gregory #5 of the Denver Broncos reacts after a play during the first half against the San Francisco 49ers at Empower Field At Mile High on September 25, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

It could be a battle of backups Sunday in Denver.

The Arizona Cardinals (4-9) enter with Colt McCoy expected to spell Kyler Murray after the latter suffered a knee injury Monday in a loss to the New England Patriots. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos (3-10) could have Brett Rypien instead of Russell Wilson after the starter entered concussion protocols this week.

Behind Enemy Lines brings you the key storylines and latest news for the Cardinals’ opponent each week this season.

Broncos rule out Russell Wilson for Cardinals game Sunday

By The Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson cleared concussion protocol, but will be held out of Denver’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, head coach Nathaniel Hackett said Friday.

Hackett said Wilson wasn’t pleased with the decision, but the Broncos want to take every precaution with their 34-year-old quarterback’s health.

Wilson sustained a concussion on a head-first dive into several defenders at the goal line following a 14-yard scramble against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.

He appeared to get briefly knocked unconscious and when his helmet was removed a swelling was clearly visible on his forehead. He was replaced by Brett Rypien, who will make his third career start Sunday.

Wilson swiftly progressed through the league’s concussion rules this week, participating in individual throwing drills Wednesday, taking limited snaps Thursday and participating fully on Friday.

After Friday’s practice, however, Hackett said Rypien, who got the bulk of the snaps at practice this week, would start Sunday when the Broncos (3-10) host Arizona (4-9).

The Cardinals also will start their backup, Colt McCoy, with starter Kyler Murray sidelined by an ACL tear in his right knee he suffered last week.

“Russell Wilson has passed the concussion protocol,” Hackett said. “… As an organization, we’ve decided to give him another week so he’s ready to go against the Los Angeles Rams” on Christmas Day.”

Hackett had said all week that the organization’s top concern was Wilson’s health, so the move wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Wilson has only missed four games in his 11-year NFL career, three of them last season in Seattle when he broke a finger on his throwing hand and one earlier this season because of a pulled hamstring.

“Russ is one of our ultimate competitors in this game. He’s unbelievable,” Hackett said. “We informed him of the decision. He’s not happy with it. He wants to be out there and play. He’s very, very competitive, as we all know, and wants to compete for this team and be out there.

“And we as an organization, after discussing and talking throughout this entire week, have decided it’s best for our organization, it’s best for Russell. And we talked about this from top all the way to the bottom,” Hackett said. “So we looked at every single thing and just want to give him another week to get ready. We’re very confident in ‘Ryp,’ very excited about ‘Ryp and this opportunity.”

Rypien has made two career starts, both against the New York Jets, whom he beat in 2020 and lost to on Oct. 23 when Wilson was sidelined.

Wilson’s difficult first season in Denver includes just 11 touchdown passes — three of which came last week before he got hurt early in the fourth quarter— and 43 sacks after he signed a $245 million contract before the season that included a $50 million signing bonus, making his salary this season $57 million.

Wilson’s acquisition cost the Broncos four premium draft picks, including their 2023 first-rounder. With Denver’s unexpected struggles this year, Seattle stands to get the second overall pick in the NFL draft next April.

Also ruled out Friday were receivers Courtland Sutton and Kendall Hinton, who are among a rash of Broncos who have pulled hamstrings.

Broncos cautious even if Russell Wilson clears concussion protocols

By The Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Russell Wilson stretched for a bit and threw a few passes during individual drills ahead of the Denver Broncos’ practice Wednesday as he works his way through the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Wilson sustained a head injury Sunday when the veteran quarterback dived head-first for the goal line after scrambling for a 14-yard gain. He was replaced by backup Brett Rypien in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 34-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Rypien would get his second start of the season Sunday if Wilson is sidelined against Arizona (4-9). The Cardinals lost their starting QB, Kyler Murray, to a torn ACL on Monday night against the New England Patriots. He was replaced by backup Colt McCoy, who will start Sunday at Denver (3-10).

Wilson missed a game earlier this season with a hamstring injury, only the fourth game he’s missed in his 11-year NFL career.

There’s a possibility he could clear the concussion protocol and still be held out by the Broncos, who have already been eliminated from the playoffs for a seventh straight season.

“In the end, his safety is what matters most to us,” first-year Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “We want to be sure that we’re taking care of him and his well-being, and we’re doing what’s right for Russell. It always starts right away with the medical department. We’ve got a really good medical department, independent neurologists.

“We’re going to be sure we’re in constant communication with them. He’s being monitored by everybody. We’ll go from there. We’ll talk with him and it will be an organizational decision.”

Wilson’s transition to the Broncos has been rough. He’s thrown for 11 touchdowns in 12 games and has been sacked 43 times behind a patchwork offensive line after signing a five-year, $245 million extension before the season.

In other injury news, defensive end Randy Gregory returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Week 4.

“It’ll be exciting to have him back out there,” Hackett said. “It’s hard to replace a guy like that. He’s a presence.”

Safety Justin Simmons said Gregory’s return provides an enormous boost.

“I’m excited to be able to play with him again,” said Simmons, who only played in the season opener with Gregory before missing a month himself. “I like to call those type of guys ‘game-wreckers.’ Run game, pass game, he goes in there and just messes everything up.”

Wilson, Sutton banged up

By The Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — Just when he started to look like his vintage self — scrambling for first downs and diving for the goal line — Russell Wilson was knocked out of the game with a concussion Sunday.

Wilson, who hasn’t had a lot of things go his way in his first season in Denver, left the Broncos’ 34-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after suffering a head injury at the end of a 14-yard scramble to the Kansas City 2 early in the fourth quarter.

Wilson had rallied the Broncos (3-10) from a 27-0 deficit with a trio of touchdown drives. His backup, Brett Rypien, threw a touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy after replacing Wilson, but the Broncos came up short.

Early on, it was ugly for Wilson, just like it’s been most of the season.

His short pass in the second quarter was tipped by Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay, who then hauled it in, broke through a Wilson tackle and raced for a 47-yard touchdown that made it 27-0.

But Wilson rebounded. He threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns — he had eight TD passes entering the game. He was the team’s leading rusher with 57 yards, relying on his feet to bail him out of trouble. This was the version of Wilson the Broncos traded for when they sent three players and four premium draft picks to Seattle last spring — and why they signed him to a $245 million extension before the season.

Wilson dived toward the goal line with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter and was stopped by a wall of Chiefs defenders. He stayed down for a moment before getting up, dazed. There was a chunk of grass stuck to the right side of his helmet and it appeared he tried to get back into the huddle before he was escorted to the sideline.

“We’re going to do everything the way that the medical doctors say, the independent doctors,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said Monday, per the team website. “… His safety is the No. 1 biggest priority for us. So we want to be sure we do what’s right for him.

“Right now, we’re just concerned for his safety,” Hackett added. “We want to make sure that he’s healthy. So we’ll take that day by day and continually talk to our medical team and to Russell.”

Rypien entered the game while Wilson went into the blue medical tent.

Rypien completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jeudy on fourth down to get Denver within 34-28. Wilson stepped out of the tent just as Jeudy was making the catch.

The Broncos were without many of their top receivers. The latest to be sidelined is Courtland Sutton (hamstring). That left pretty much a bunch of young targets and former first-round pick Jeudy, who fought through early frustration to turn in a big game.

“We’re going to take that day by day when it comes to (Sutton’s) status,” Hackett said. “I want to talk with the medical team. … With it being a hamstring, those things are different for everybody, so we want to be sure that we’re smart with him.”

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