There was a day last year when Von Miller thought he may have played his last game as a Bronco.
It wasn’t concern over his contract.
It was worry that he may have put on cleats for the last time after a freak foot injury that took him out of a season he was really looking forward to - a season he believed was going to be his best yet.
“I remember when I got hurt last year, I just had these memories of, ‘Dang.’ I was sitting on the turf and I was like, ‘Man, is this my last play as a Denver Bronco?’” Miller said after OTA practice Monday, feelings inspired after Rod Smith spoke to the team to open up the new phase of offseason work.
But in true Von fashion, No 58 used those feelings to fuel his rehab and refocus the energy for this season.
“I grinded and I worked hard to put that away, and I never take that for granted,” Miller said.. “Every time I go out there, I feel blessed. It just means so much more to fight back from injury.”
He even focused his energy on encouraging/pushing his teammates. Courtland Sutton, who missed most of the season to an ACL injury, took a lot of strength from Miller’s influence.
“I’m big on mindset,” Sutton said. “How you look at things can really determine how a lot of things [play] out for you. ...having Von in the room with me at the time was huge. He sent a few videos challenging my mindset and making sure I didn’t get into a mindset of ‘poor me’ or ‘why me?’ One of those I still watch to this day because it’s a good reminder of it’s a day-to-day grind.”
Of course Miller’s answer prompted questions from reporters about whether he sees this as a “prove-it year” in order to remain a Bronco, to which Miller responded, “Right before I go, you guys just come up with some crazy ones. I never said Rod Smith made me think about the business. I said that what he said hits home for me.”
But to answer that question, Miller also added that “it’s football” and he’s just trying to take advantage of every opportunity he gets because he loves this game.
“Without giving any click bait or hot topics for you guys, I just want to play football. I didn’t get to do it last year. It means a lot more. Football has always meant so much to me, and it just has a different feel to it, whether that’s a prove-it or whatever you guys call it,” he lectured. “Every time I walk out here, I feel like I’ve got to prove something. It’s not to you guys or the GM or anybody like that. It’s to myself. I love this game; I want to be a great.”
That desire - which had seen a resurgence before his injury last year - is burning even bigger this season. And it’s not just about getting back after injury. It’s about being a better player from now until he does actually hang up his cleats.
“It never left. ...That mindset that I created last year is a permanent thing,” Miller said. “I felt like last season was going to be the season, but I feel like this season is going to be a great season, too. Just refocus with that same fire and that same intensity and just grind it out. I’m still running around here beating everybody’s ass, so I feel like, 30-what? Until I see otherwise, I’m going to keep doing it and I’m going to keep going.”
But while he’s kicking some a$$, he’s also taken notice of the new guys on the team, particularly the Broncos’ first-round pick Patrick Surtain II, aka “PS2.”
“This Patrick Surtain II, this ‘PS2’ guy, he’s the real deal,” Miller said. “There are a couple times where I look over my shoulder just to see who’s out there at receiver, left and right checking out the formation, and I see this guy standing out there. I’m like, ‘Bro, this guy is taller than me. Is he supposed to be inside? He’s supposed to be rushing. This guy is supposed to be rushing.’ He’s the real deal and he’s a specimen.”
And for an edge rusher who depends on a strong secondary to keep coverage so tight a quarterback needs to hold on to the ball just a little longer, elite-level DBs make Miller a happy man.
“The more DBs that we have, the better we’ll be. Definitely stacked in this room. ...It’s great, it feels good. I’ve played with great DBs before—Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward—and this feels like the resurrection of the ‘No-Fly Zone,’ the ‘No-Fly Zone 2.0,’” he said. “Being a pass-rusher, DBs are my best friends out there. We’ve got a lot of them in there. It should be fun.”