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After missing six games to COVID-19, Broncos DC Ed Donatell likely to coach Sunday’s game vs. Carolina

After missing six games to COVID-19, Broncos DC Ed Donatell
likely to coach Sunday’s game vs. Carolina 1

After being hospitalized last month with the coronavirus, Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is likely to return to his game-day role Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

That will mean coaching from the box as Donatell works back to full physical strength after missing six games — the first games he’s missed in 40 years of coaching. The 63-year-old detailed his road back Thursday, about two weeks after he returned to the Broncos’ training complex on a part-time basis.

“This thing went on longer than I wanted it to,” Donatell said. “When I was getting ready to come back, the virus hit me about the ninth day (after being placed in COVID protocol Nov. 1). I started getting really heavy symptoms. I was hospitalized for five days, and they gave me the meds I needed and I returned home. When something like that happens, you’ve got to battle back with your strength and your cardio, and that’s where I am.”

Donatell credited the Broncos’ medical staff for their care throughout his ordeal — he’s been working with strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow since returning to Dove Valley. Donatell also tipped his cap to the Broncos defensive assistants who “went to different levels as coaches” by leading in his stead.

“Renaldo Hill, our DB coach, and (defensive quality control coach) Chris Beake, they did extra work when I couldn’t be here physically on the field,” Donatell said. “They were top-shelf. They were extraordinary as far as their commitment and making things work.”

Vic Fangio cautioned Donatell’s status “could change here in the next 48 hours” as his defensive coordinator hasn’t yet been officially cleared by the team to make the trip. Last week, the Broncos debated sending him to Kansas City, but opted against it because the team was returning to Denver in the wee hours of Monday morning and insomnia is one of the side-effects Donatell is still experiencing.

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But if Donatell does end up making the trip to Bank of America Stadium as Fangio hopes, it would be “a tremendous help.”

“He’s got a veteran set of eyes with me for 10 years,” Fangio said. “We can speak the same language really quick and we have a memory bank of things that have built up over 10 years.”

Donatell said watching the last six games from his house was “just a weird experience” — one the 30-year NFL coaching veteran doesn’t care to ever relive. Throughout his sickness, he remained involved virtually with the Broncos’ day-to-day planning.

“I don’t like it,” Donatell said. “I can’t see enough of the whole picture…. You know the calls, you were involved in creating the game plan, and you’re not there.”

Safety Justin Simmons said the seriousness of Donatell’s bout with the virus — which has infected nine Broncos players and coaches to date — “kind of put things into perspective and it really made us appreciate just kind of the little things.”

“Every time you hear someone gets COVID, it’s like they’re quarantined for a week and then they’re just kind of back and ready to go, with the exception of a few people that I know,” Simmons said. “In Ed’s instance it’s like, first we knew he had it, and then the next thing you know he’s in the hospital and different (serious) things are going on. So, it just kind of sunk us back into reality. It’s just like, this thing is real, everyone’s living through this, we’re in a pandemic.”

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