Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett said he’s in wait-and-see mode as it pertains to quarterback Russell Wilson’s status moving forward after Wilson sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter Sunday against Kansas City.
Hackett would not rule Wilson out for Sunday’s home game against Arizona, but also wouldn’t commit to putting the veteran quarterback back on the field this season even if he clears concussion protocol.
Wilson was knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter — Hackett said Monday he believes Wilson was briefly unconscious near the Chiefs’ goal line — and must pass through the NFL’s standardized concussion protocol before he’s allowed to play in a game again. Even then, his return is not a guarantee for Denver, which is 3-10 and eliminated from playoff contention with four games remaining.
“Right now, we’re just concerned for his safety and we want to make sure that he’s healthy,” Hackett said Monday when asked if the franchise would consider shutting Wilson down even if he was cleared to play. “We’ll take that day-by-day and continually talk to our medical team and to Russell.”
Hackett said he saw Wilson on Monday and that, “he felt great today when we saw him, he looked great, but we’re going to make sure that we do everything the right way.”
The NFL’s concussion protocol outlines the path to returning to game participation. It begins with a player being allowed to take part in light aerobic activity and daily activities including attending team meetings and watching film as long as concussion symptoms don’t increase. A player then graduates to more strenuous aerobic activity, then football-specific exercise, then non-contact football-related drills, and then full practice before being cleared to return to game action.
Each phase must be completed without symptoms before moving to the next.
“We’re going to do everything the way the medical doctors say, the independent doctors,” Hackett said. “Safety is, by far, the No. 1 most important thing. We’ll continually talk to him and to everyone else about that and make sure we do the right thing.”
Wilson and the Broncos’ offense started slow against the Chiefs, but by the time he suffered the concussion he was putting together one of his best outings of the season.
Wilson completed 23 of 36 passes for 247 yards and rushed for 57 more, including the scramble that resulted in an injury. He threw for three touchdowns — his first such outing since being traded to Denver in March — and engineered scoring drives of 75, 60 and 42 yards and took the Broncos most of the way down the field on their final, 75-yard scoring drive.
On the drive, he picked up a third-and-1 by keeping the ball on a read option and running for 11 yards.
“That was his play call, one of the best play calls of the night and he called his own number on that one,” Hackett said. “He wants to run and he wants the ball in his hands to be able to throw it or run it. I give so much credit to that guy. He was a dog yesterday. He wanted to take that game over. He didn’t care what the score was.”
That ability to use his legs helped the Broncos out of a bad situation just before his injury, too. After a negative play and two holding penalties, Denver faced second-and-34 from the Kansas City 39 before Wilson hit rookie tight end Greg Dulcich over the middle in traffic for 23 yards. Then he took off and ran on third-and-11, breaking a tackle near the line of scrimmage and diving head-first for the first down, suffering the concussion as his helmet hit the ground.
Backup Brett Rypien finished off that drive with a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.
Rypien would be in line to start Sunday against Arizona if Wilson is not cleared. He also started a Week 7 home game against the New York Jets when Wilson had a hamstring injury. In that 16-9 loss, Rypien completed 24 of 46 passes for 225 yards and was intercepted.
Denver’s third quarterback is practice squad member Jarrett Guarantano, the former Washington State and Tennessee quarterback who spent about a month on Arizona’s practice squad earlier this season.