The NFL has given teams some flexibility as it relates to their rosters ever since the pandemic, including some unique ways the practice squad can help throughout the season. Each week of the season, you can call up two players from the practice squad -- if you so choose -- and make them among your 48 active players on gameday. The NFL also added a rule in 2023 where teams can add a 49th player to their gameday roster as an emergency quarterback. It's possible that in Week 13, we'll see the Denver Broncos utilize that provision.
The Broncos promoted practice squad quarterback Ben DiNucci ahead of the team's game against the Houston Texans. The timing is extremely interesting and caused Denver Broncos fans to wonder what might be going on.
If there's nothing more to it than DiNucci coming up as the 3rd "emergency" quarterback, then the rules are simple: He is not allowed to touch the field unless both Russell Wilson and Jarrett Stidham are injured and unable to return to the game. This is a rule the NFL implemented after an embarrassing situation in last season's playoffs where we saw Christian McCaffrey basically playing quarterback for the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
It's possible that another team was trying to snipe DiNucci off of the Broncos' roster, and this is their way of promoting him -- if only for a game -- and allowing him to dress with the rest of the team and go on the road trip.
If you want to put on a tinfoil hat for a moment, some theorized that it's possible Russell Wilson's wife -- Ciara -- could be due to have their next child soon. Ciara announced her pregnancy back in August, but it's tough to know whether or not she's that close to potentially having the baby or if Russell Wilson would skip/leave the game to be present for that.
What's interesting in this case: DiNucci wouldn't be able to play if Russ left mid-game for non-injury reasons, so he would have to be part of the 48 gameday active players as opposed to the emergency quarterback and 49th player.
Another theory is that DiNucci is the emergency kicker or emergency "holder" for field goals with kicker (and AFC Special Teams Player of the Month) Wil Lutz popping up on this week's injury report. DiNucci may be able to hold down the fort on extra points or short-range field goals. If this is the case, DiNucci would once again have to be part of the 48 eligible players in order to contribute.
The most likely scenario here -- considering neither Russell Wilson nor backup Jarrett Stidham were hurt at all during the week -- is that DiNucci is being called up as the emergency quarterback just to dress for a game. Then again, you can't help but wonder if there's something up Sean Payton's sleeve. You can only promote practice squad players twice in a season "for free" before you have to subject them to waivers in order to get them back on the practice squad. To use a promotion for DiNucci when your other quarterbacks are healthy is an intriguing choice.
It's likely that other QB-needy teams came sniffing around DiNucci, and we know that Sean Payton likes him quite a bit. The Broncos clearly value him to give him this promotion when they could use those practice squad promotions each week to bring up guys that will actually play in the game. We'll see what this means for DiNucci going forward.