Ware may be done as Bronco
Veteran outside linebacker put on injured reserve with lower back injury
The Broncos placed veteran outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware on injured reserve with a lower back injury, ending his season a week early and possibly ending his tenure as a Bronco.
Ware did not practice Wednesday because of lingering lower back pain. He aggravated his back last season and missed the entire offseason and preseason to try to recover. Although he didn’t miss time because of the injury this year — he instead missed five games with an elbow injury — Gary Kubiak said Wednesday that it’s something Ware has “been playing through that has kind of bothered him more and more.”
“Pedal is always to the metal and fuel is still in the tank. #VroomVroom” Ware tweeted later in the day.
Ware, 34, signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Broncos in 2014 as part of general manager John Elway’s defensive overhaul following the team’s blowout loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, joining veteran safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib as newcomers.
“People talk about us trying to buy a defense and this and that, but all those guys we brought in fit in great,” Elway told The Denver Post in August. “The overall philosophy I’m proud of — play great defense and continue to try to get better on the offensive side. … You never know how they’re going to mold together, but those guys — especially with DeMarcus and his leadership ability — everything just molded.”
In 10 games this season (eight starts), Ware had four sacks for a loss of 22 yards, plus eight quarterback hits and 15 total tackles. In his 12 seasons combined, the nine-time Pro Bowler amassed 138.5 career sacks to rank eighth in NFL history and second among active players. He also ranks second in NFL history with a sack rate of 0.78 per game throughout his career, trailing only Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White (0.85 per game).
But he not only keyed the Broncos’ defensive transformation, he also aided in the development and maturation of fellow outside linebacker Von Miller.
“DeMarcus was a great role model for Von,” Elway said. “We knew what Von could do and we knew the physical talent he had. Obviously, he had some bumps in the road there, but that’s going to happen to some guys. They’re young. So I think DeMarcus was a guy we thought, no question, would be a great role model for Von to get him to see what it takes to be great, what it takes to be a leader and start creating that legacy for Von.”
When Ware arrived, Miller was coming off a season shortened because of a drug-policy suspension and knee surgery. In the years since, Miller, who has spoken often of his admiration and respect for Ware, has transformed into the Broncos’ Super Bowl MVP and one of — if not the — top defenders in the game.
“It’s just like having the Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi,” Miller said in October, before Ware’s return from the elbow injury. “It’s just when you have that type of wisdom around and you have that type of poise and he’s just always calm, no matter what the situation is. He always has great advice. He always knows the direction to go and he has the vision for our outside linebacker room. He’s definitely a leader for us. When you have your leaders around, it makes everything go a lot smoother.”
After Super Bowl 50, Ware made it clear he wanted to play again, saying he had “a lot of gas left in the tank” even after a trying season with the back injury. To stay in Denver, he agreed to restructure the final year on his deal and lower his salary-cap hit.
With his contract about to expire and his 12th season in the books, Ware’s time as a Bronco, if not an NFL linebacker may have expired, too.
Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware sacks Titans QB Marcus Mariota during the team’s 13-10 loss Dec. 11. John Leyba, The Denver Post