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Veteran players feeling stronger than ever

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After offseason injury recovery, three contributing vets - Matt Paradis, Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko - are energized for a much more productive year.

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The list of positives this offseason keeps growing, and among those is the improved health of several key veteran players.

Matt Paradis had surgery on both hips in 2017, which meant last year’s offseason was spent mostly doing rehab just to get ready to play Week 1.

This year the fourth-year center who has not missed a snap in three years has actually been able to work out and build strength.

“I’m doing great. It’s been an exciting offseason because I haven’t been able to work out to build strength since like my sophomore year of college,” said Paradis, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. “It’s been a very exciting offseason to squat again - I haven’t done that in forever. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Defensive end Derek Wolfe underwent a Foraminotomy procedure in the final days of the 2017 regular season. Team neurosurgeon Dr. Chad Prusmack did the surgery to open the passageway where the spinal nerve exits the spinal canal; Wolfe also had some stem cell treatment to repair the nerve.

Days after the surgery, Wolfe reported his neck felt “so much better,” and now at the beginning of OTAs, his report hasn’t changed.

“No, I feel great. It’s one of those things that needed to be fixed for a long time,” said the defensive end who missed two games in 2016 and five in 2017 because of severe neck pain. “I was really just putting Band-Aids on it for the last probably four years. Got the surgery, got it cleaned up. It’s all healed up, I feel strong again. I feel great.”

Wolfe also feels energized. With some big improvements to the Broncos’ offense, the defensive end believes his side of the ball is going to be a lot more prepared.

“It’s just about the attitude,” he said. “Last year, we felt like we’re going into the same old thing: Defense was going to pick up a lot of the slack, this and that. Now our competition is great. It’s not one-sided anymore.”

Fellow defensive lineman Domata Peko Sr. is also back stronger than ever after spending two games sidelined last year with a partially torn MCL, ending his 123-game streak for consecutive games played in the NFL.

“It feels really good to be out there right now on the second day of OTAs, putting the helmet back on and strapping up. There is nothing like it,” said Peko, who contributed 24 tackles and one sack last season. “I was telling some guys today it feels really good to be back out there playing football and not just lifting weights. You get tired of that stuff. ...I was telling Coach [Vance Joseph] jokingly that in American years I’m 33, but in Samoan years I’m 23. I think I’ve got a lot more to go. I still have more in the tank, and I feel really good.”

And with all this good recovery news about the veterans, it may seem like the rookie class won’t have much place to fit in next season.

But the players insist the new guys are a good group and several will likely see the field right away this season.

“There’s no complaining. That’s the one thing that you notice from an immature draft class, is that they complain a lot, whine and cry a lot,” Wolfe noted. “There’s none of that coming from this group.”

Peko pointed out Broncos’ first-round pick Bradley Chubb as a standout to him so far among the rookies.

“I really like Chubb. Just seeing him on the first day, he reminds me of Von a lot,” Peko said. “He’s quick, he’s strong and he can get to the passer. He’s disruptive and he’s willing to learn. He’s always talking to Von and asking, ‘Hey, what can I do?’ That’s good to see out of a rookie. ...I was telling some guys that, man, these guys are going to make a difference for us.”

Difference or not, Peko isn’t going to satisfy the rookies with learning their names until they actually make the team - “that’s just a rookie thing. You’ve got to earn the respect of the veterans.”

But Peko’s true feelings about the young guys was actually much more complimentary.

“These rookies are really hungry to learn and really hungry to win,” he said. “I’m excited to have them a part of the team.”

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