Von Miller is no spring chicken.
And he knows chickens.
But at 32 and staring down the twilight of his career as one of the best all-time pass rushers in the NFL, Miller is still leading his flock as only he can.
With never-ending positivity, jokes and an insatiable desire to compete.
Of course he wants to win. Of course he wants to be Defensive Player of the Year. Of course he wants to lead in sacks.
But he also just wants to play football, and after sitting out last. year due to injury, nothing feels better to him than just playing, no matter the wins and losses.
“Honestly, sitting out last year, it really helped me be at peace,” he said Tuesday, noting the difference between being at peace and being content.
Miller is not content.
“This is my 11th year in the league, I’ve done a lot of wonderful things on and off the football field,” he said. “Really coming into this season I’m just at peace. I just want to play football, I want to be in the locker room with the guys, I want to go out there and just play football. I don’t want to be really worried about sacks. Of course I want to go out there and do all the things that I’ve done before, but honestly I’m really at peace. ...That’s where I’m at.”
With his first child due in less than two weeks, the soon-to-be first-time dad has had time to reflect over the past season and offseason. He hopes to play another five-plus years - preferably in Denver - but he’s not sweating the details right now.
“I just want to go play football,” he said, noting that after attacking the 2020 offseason hard, only for it to be cut short before the season even started, Miller “tweaked” his mindset.
Given the very recent discussions around the mental health of athletes, Miller’s comments resonate slightly differently.
“I didn’t play football at all, and I really attacked last offseason super hard. I really took advantage of the pandemic, and I took it super serious. I always have a chip on my shoulder, but I had a huge chip on my shoulder. I would work out twice a day, and I did this and that. I just really wanted to change my mindset about that stuff. I feel like I had a great mindset last year, but it didn’t come to fruition for me. It didn’t happen for me, so I had to [go] back to the drawing board and just put these little tweaks on my mindset, and I just want to be at peace. I want to be a positive light for my teammates like I always do,” he said. “I’m not thinking about my ankle, I’m not thinking about how many sacks I can get. I just want to go out there, have fun.”
It’s not a different Von Miller. Just a more reflective one.
“I had a dream the other day that I was running out from the facility, and I did the little clap like I always do. That just reassured me that my mindset and the way I label things is where I want it to be. I just want to go out there and play football,” he said, adding that last year “his soul” was weighed down by concerns over his contract and whether he’d remain with the Broncos. “I want to stay here for the rest of my career. Getting past that is kind of like a release for me. Being at this point where I am now, being able to fight back from an injury, and be back with the Broncos and have another year with the guys. I’m really at peace with whatever happens. That’s where my mind is at.”
Of course, it’s also on wins - something the pass rusher assures Broncos Country is coming.
“It will happen,” Miller promised, noting “too many” talented players, coaches, support staff ...even fans. “We’ve got Jerry Jeudy. We can just go out there and throw the ball up to him every single time and win games. We’ve got Courtland Sutton and Melvin [Gordon] so it will happen. It’s just a matter of time .... I really do believe this will be the year. I don’t know what the win column will look like but we’re going to do some great things this season. We have too many pieces in place not to.”
And one of the main pieces is Miller himself.
At 32 he knows better than to assume he has a certain numbers of years left to play, but he feels great, “like it’s Year 7 or Year 6.”
“To sit here and think about where I could evolve, I really don’t know. ...I feel great, and I’m out here with these young guys. I’m still running the same, still lifting the same as those guys,” he said, admitting the jokes from the youngsters don’t register like they used to. “I think being able to take a whole year off last year—I had some injuries before that kind of healed up, so I just feel great. ...I’ve been in the league 11 years so every single year from here on out is just a true blessing. I want to keep playing a long time, and we’ll see what God gives me.”
Even if that means playing quarterback.
“I can go out there and play quarterback, and I can throw it to Jerry Jeudy and he’s going to catch it and score a touchdown, all this stuff. I’m super excited for our offense, I’m super excited for our defense,” he said. “There’s no reason for us not to win games. I don’t know how many games we’re going to win but I know we will win a lot of games this year.”