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No need to ask the leadership question anymore

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What's more important is the communication between players - and their willingness to be both students and teachers of the game.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Enough already with the leadership question at every press conference.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of strong leaders to help a team stay on track. But frankly, it's an irrelevant question with this team now - either too early to force the question or unnecessary.

And that's a good thing.

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio unknowingly had the most insightful perspective on what will make the Broncos uber-successful this year.

And it's not about who is going to be the leader or how/when he's going to show it.

It's about the entire team getting in sync.


"I've been asked the question about leadership quite a bit this offseason and that's not high on my concern list," Del Rio said Wednesday after being asked for the gazillionth time about leaders on his defense. "Really, it's getting on the same page so we know where each other is going to be and we can play fast."

Normally, a comment that leadership is not "high on my concern list" might concern me. After all, teams need role models and guys stepping up.

But Del Rio's answer is actually perfect - Get on the same page. Know where each other is going to be. Play fast.

It's irrelevant right now to pinpoint the guy who will ultimately be the go-to leader on defense.

And though this is rarely pointed out, leaders don't always have to be leading. If you want to be on the same page at game time, sometimes it's important to follow.

There will always be natural leaders who emerge, and they will all have different styles - some purely by example, others via motivational speeches. And in different situations, a particular style is most needed. Some of those remain to be seen.

The key is not whether one or two or even several guys step up as designated leaders. As Del Rio hinted, the more important characteristic for the defense - and the entire team, I would argue - is working together as a unit in harmony.

That requires a lot of talking, a lot of asking questions.

And though it may be bad news for all the reporters wanting to know who the leader is right now, it's good news for Broncos Country.

It's not as important whether DeMarcus Ware or Von Miller or Chris Harris, Jr. is bringing the defense together. And though Peyton Manning is obviously the five-star general of the offense, he knows as well as anyone that it takes a lot of work from each individual for any leader to be effective.

"Can you get six years worth of timing in some mini camps and OTAs? No, you can't," Manning said earlier this week. "But you try. You try to get on the same page. The more you know where a receiver's going to be, the more accurate you are."

Get on the same page. Know where each other is going to be. Play fast.

What's more important than a particular leader emerging is that each player understands he can be both a teacher and a student.

Ware understands this, which explains why the seven-time Pro Bowler is getting and asking a lot of questions.

"I talk to Von [Miller] all the time, and we go back and forth on pass-rush moves," Ware said. "That's good to have a guy that looks up to you, but also can teach you a couple of things that you don't even know about. We sort of learn off each other and get better."

It's good to have a guy that looks up to you but also can teach you a couple of things. We sort of learn off each other and get better.   - DeMarcus Ware, defensive end

For his part, Von Miller is enjoying the teaching and learning aspect too.

"DeMarcus is great. He's an open book," Miller said. "And with the type of career he's had and the type of success he's had over a long period of time, you learn a lot of stuff. To have a guy that, it's like having an encyclopedia in there."

Malik Jackson and Quanterus Smith have also signed on to the Ware School for Defensive Linemen.

"[Ware] is a great guy and a great teacher and always willing to teach you," said third-year defensive end Jackson. "It's just a blessing for me to have him so I can learn from him."

And Smith, who has spent all his time with the Broncos recovering from injury. Learning from a player like Ware is perhaps even more important to him as he tries to make the coaches "remember" him.

"It's more with your hands and just going through the tackle instead of trying to get around him...[Ware] taught me that," Smith said Monday after OTAs. "So I'm trying to work on that."

I'm still the big brother, but the little brother can help out a little bit. Chris has definitely helped me a lot in the classroom so far.   - Aquib Talib, cornerback

Aquib Talib, a veteran cornerback but new to the Broncos' system, has been taking cues from Harris, his former teammate at Kansas.

"I was the big brother. I'm still the big brother. But the little brother can help out a little bit," Talib said during OTAs two weeks ago. "Chris is helping me out a lot in the classroom. Some new language will come and Chris will put it to me like something we had at Kansas. ‘It's like this, we play like this.' He's definitely helped me a lot in that classroom so far."

And then Talib pays it forward by helping rookie cornerback Bradley Roby, who already credits Talib as a solid mentor for adjusting to the NFL game. And by everything out of minicamp so far, Roby has been an excellent student.

"He's just been teaching me all the small things...taking me under his wing and helping me," Roby said just moments after signing his first NFL contract. "He's a great guy to learn from. He's a very smart player and a very great player, so I'm excited about that as well."

Wes Welker, who is now both a veteran player and an experienced member of Manning's offense, believes mentoring is one of the best ways to "lead" a team.

"I think you have to have that guy, that mentor, ...not only through watching him in practice and everything else, but asking questions and trying to get on the same page, and understanding what he's seeing and why he ran his route like that, or whatever," the five-time Pro Bowler said. "That's how you get better. And so that's good to see from those young guys wanting to get better and asking those questions."

Miller perhaps handled the media questions the most honestly when he said of course he wants to be a leader. But there are bigger priorities when it comes to the overall goal.

"Who doesn't want to be a leader? I want to be a great player. I want to help win championships for the team. If my teammates look up to me, then that'd be great," Miller pointed out. "But I'm just trying to get everybody around me in the linebacker room, try to get all those guys going. Have all those guys buy into the playbook and what we're doing."

Amen to that. Studying the game. Asking lots of questions. Teaching tricks of the trade. Learning from teammates. Mentoring the new guys.

Get on the same page. Know where each other is going to be. Play fast.

Sounds to me like we've got the leadership question answered.