New leader.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider

With the re­tire­ment of DeMar­cus Ware, out­side line­backer Von Miller is ex­pected to el­e­vate his role as de­fen­sive leader.

Von Miller looked around a room of sack-happy pass rush­ers in a Bron­cos meet­ing room re­cently and came to a heady re­al­iza­tion.

At 28 years old and en­ter­ing his sev­enth sea­son in Den­ver, Miller is sud­denly the elder states­man of a de­fense once again ex­pected to be an an­chor for a team aim­ing to re­turn to the play­offs. Only De­mary­ius Thomas, en­ter­ing his eighth sea­son, has been with the Bron­cos longer than Miller.

“I’m the DeMar­cus Ware in the room now,” Miller said Wed­nes­day on the eve of the Bron­cos open­ing train­ing camp. “I’m not old, but I’m the old guy in there. Ev­ery­body’s jok­ing and laugh­ing and stuff, and I’m look­ing at them like, ‘What are you laugh­ing about? I don’t get it.’ That used to be me on that side. The roles, the tide has changed, I guess. I have to be that guy for my team. I think I’ve taken steps to do that.”

The re­tire­ment of Ware leaves a large hole to fill on the Bron­cos de­fense, as much from a lead­er­ship per­spec­tive as the num­bers the nine-time Pro Bowl pass rusher ac­cu­mu­lated on the field.

Miller will no doubt be ex­pected to el­e­vate his role as a leader in the locker room with Ware gone. It’s some of what the Bron­cos ex­pected from him when he was signed to a six-year, $114.5 mil­lion ex­ten­sion a lit­tle more than one year ago.

“Any­time you lose a guy like DeMar­cus, it’s tough,” Bron­cos pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions and gen­eral man­ager John El­way said. “He was a tremen­dous help, tremen­dous leader. As we talk about with Von, the steps he’s taken ma­tu­rity-wise, it’s a dif­fer­ent type of lead­er­ship, which is great. He keeps things loose. I think that he’s rel­ished that role in know­ing that as a vet that is one of his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. He’s done a great job with it.”

But Miller, a player who has made a for­tune squirm­ing away from mas­sive of­fen­sive tack­les, is not keen on be­ing placed in a box. His lead­er­ship style is no ex­cep­tion. Miller has drawn ideas from Pey­ton Man­ning. The line­backer’s pass rush sum­mit in June, a de facto work­shop in­volv­ing some of the best de­fen­sive play­ers in the NFL that Miller or­ga­nized at Stan­ford, was loosely based on the well-known train­ing ses­sions Man­ning would or­ga­nize in the sum­mers in Duke.

When Miller speaks with young play­ers on his own team, he’s quick to share lessons he learned from Ware and oth­ers around the league, be­com­ing him­self a con­duit of the craft. But while Miller’s lead­er­ship ap­proach has be­come a melt­ing pot of dif­fer­ent fla­vors from around the league, through mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions, it’s also uniquely his own.

“Roles change ev­ery sin­gle year, but at the end of the day I have to be Von Miller,” he said. “Pey­ton and DeMar­cus, those guys are just two in­cred­i­ble peo­ple on and off the foot­ball field. Their style of lead­er­ship is to­tally dif­fer­ent than my style of lead­er­ship. I like get­ting in with the young guys. I like spend­ing time with the rook­ies. I like spend­ing a lot of time with peo­ple in gen­eral inside the locker room. I feel like I ad­dress sit­u­a­tions and I help peo­ple over time. It’s not just like, ‘You need to do this.’ I feel like I help my team­mates over time and help them be­come bet­ter peo­ple on and off the foot­ball field by us­ing my ex­am­ple and my ca­reer and every­thing I’ve been through.”

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