ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Massive help could be on the way to the 3-10 Broncos.

On Wednesday, two of Denver’s most important and impactful players took significant positive steps to play against the Cardinals.

After suffering a concussion in Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, Russell Wilson took a gigantic step in the concussion protocol before the team’s first practice of the week.

“Russell Wilson has a concussion. He’ll be in the protocol so he won’t participate. He’ll be working through it with his increased physical activity as we move forward,” Hackett stated on Wednesday.

Despite being listed as a nonparticipant, Wilson was on the practice field on Wednesday.

There are five steps in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Phase Two allows players to “begin graduated cardiovascular exercise,” according to NFL.com. When Hackett was asked if Wilson had advanced at least one step, he confirmed and added, “We’re just following the protocols exactly how we need to and making sure we’re increasing his physical activity appropriately as the NFL has listed it out.”

However, during Wednesday’s practice, Wilson appeared to have been working in Phase Three of the protocol. While Wilson was listed as a nonparticipant in practice, he did stretch with the team and participate in individual drills. Phase Three, according to NFL.com, states a “player-patient is allowed to practice with the team in sport specific exercise for 30 minutes or less.”

Based on the level of activity Wilson had in practice, he only has two more steps to pass in order to be cleared to play. Hackett made clear many times on Wednesday that Wilson’s health and safety is the most important aspect when decision whether or not he’ll play.

“In the end, his safety is what matters most to us. We want to be sure that we’re taking care of him and all his wellbeing. We’re doing what’s right for Russell,” Hackett stated, when asked how he will make the decision whether to play Wilson. “It always starts right away with the medical department. We’ve got a really good medical department. The independent neurologist, we’re going to make sure we’re in constant communication with them. He’s been monitored by everybody. And we’ll go from there. We’ll talk with him and it’ll be an organizational decision.”

Wilson will be involved in team meetings and the game plan leading up to Sunday’s game against the 4-9 Cardinals.

When asked how optimistic he is that Wilson will play, and if he needs to practice in the week in order to play, Hackett simple said, “We’re taking it day-by-day.”

Denver’s franchise quarterback isn’t one to miss games. In fact, in his 11-year career, he’s only missed four total games. In Week 7, Hackett held Wilson out of the game against the Jets, due to a hamstring injury, despite the starting quarterback wanting to play.

“That’s what you love about Russell,” Hackett said on Wednesday, when asked about Wilson always wanting to play. “But for us, it starts with the medical team and it’s day-by-day right now and then we’ll all discuss and do what’s best for Russell first and foremost and then the organization.”

Wilson is progressing through the concussion protocol at an impressive rate. However, if he can’t play, Brett Rypien will start with practice squad quarterback Jarrett Guarantano as his backup.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos got a significant boost as well.

Randy Gregory, Denver’s most prized free agent signing this year, practiced on Wednesday. Gregory was placed on the IR after suffering a knee injury that required an arthroscopic procedure following Week 4.

With Gregory practicing on Wednesday, Denver has 21 days to either promote him to the active roster or keep him on the injured reserve. But it doesn’t appear the Broncos will need 21 days to make their decision on him.

“We’re going to start Randy’s clock today. So it’ll be exciting to have him back there. We’re looking forward to him hopefully playing on Sunday. We want him to be out there on Sunday,” Hackett stated. “It’s hard to replace a guy like that. I mean, he’s a presence. How he attacks the edge, sets the edge, rushes the passer, that’s something that we could really use.”

In his four games with the Broncos before suffering the injury, Gregory was a force at the outside linebacker position. Gregory racked up two sacks, two forced fumbles, two tackles for a loss and seven quarterback hits.

“You definitely miss him. His ability to set the edge, rush the passer, I mean, it’s very good. That’s why he’s here,” Hackett added about the 6-foot-5, 242-pound pass rusher. “We’re excited to have him out there and hopefully get after it.”

As to if Gregory will be on a play count on Sunday, Hackett said “We’re playing it day-by-day.”

Although both star players are taking it day-by-day, both took significant steps to return to the field and play on Sunday.


Zac Stevens was born and raised in Denver, went to the University of Denver and now covers the Denver Broncos. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from DU in 2014, Zac worked for the Cleveland Browns as a remote scout. He then jumped straight into the journalism industry at the beginning of 2016 covering the reigning world-champion Broncos and joined DNVR soon after. Catch him on Twitter @ZacStevensDNVR and daily on the DNVR Broncos podcast as the co-host.