DENVER (CBS4/AP) – Quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were pulled off the Broncos practice field Saturday and sent home after the NFL deemed them high-risk close contacts of Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thanksgiving Day. It turns out, the four Denver QBs had gathered for some film study on their own Tuesday, the players’ day off, “which is commendable,” coach Vic Fangio said after Denver’s 31-3 loss to New Orleans on Sunday.

Drew Lock

Drew Lock during practice last week (credit: CBS)

But the four QBs didn’t wear their mandated masks or keep their social distance, something the league discovered in looking at surveillance footage. None were allowed to play against the Saints.

An hour before kickoff, Lock issued an apology, an explanation and a defense in a lengthy Twitter post.

“In a controlled and socially distanced area, we let our masking slip for a limited amount of time. An honest mistake, but one I will own,” Lock wrote, adding, “I sincerely apologize and I fully understand why these safety precautions are so important. Doing the right thing for a majority of the time is not good enough.”

Fangio, whose team fell to 4-7 with Kendall Hinton as the emergency starter at QB, said he was “disappointed on a couple of levels” that his quarterbacks’ actions put his team and the NFL into a difficult position.

Drew Lock

(credit: CBS)

“We count on them to be the leaders of the team and leaders of the offense and those guys made a mistake and that is disappointing,” Fangio said. “Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they are on their own so part of that could fall on me. I thought I was.

“We have emphasized it a lot and we’re really doing good with COVID up to this point … relative to other teams. There was a failing there and that’s disappointing.”

When the league informed the Broncos that their QBs had violated COVID-19 protocols and had to quarantine, the Broncos pleaded with league commissioner Roger Goodell to postpone their game against the Saints a day or two.

Making that argument were Fangio, who was fined earlier this season for not wearing a mask on the sideline, and two executives in general manager John Elway and team president Joe Ellis who were infected by the virus earlier this month.

“I feel like maybe it could have been moved, but at the same time, maybe the league (was) just making an example of us,” said safety Kareem Jackson.

Fangio demurred when asked if the NFL’s refusal to push the game back was unfair, saying that was a question for Elway or Ellis.

“Terribly unfortunate,” Elway posted on Facebook after the league disqualified his three healthy quarterbacks.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)