ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Denver Broncos pass-rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are a lot alike. Both collect lots of sacks, hefty paychecks and plenty of accolades. The two are also on the comeback trail after offseason surgeries following a disappointing season.
Ware had his right elbow repaired in February, a few weeks before the Dallas Cowboys released him in a salary cap move after the worst season of the star pass-rusher’s career.
Ware amassed a franchise-best 117 sacks for the Cowboys since getting drafted in the first round in 2005, but he got to the quarterback a career-low six times last season and missed games for the first time in his nine-year career with a thigh injury.
He was due to count $16 million against the Cowboys’ cap, and when negotiations on a reduced salary failed, he was released. He quickly signed a three-year, $30 million deal in Denver, where he’ll play alongside Miller, a native of Dallas who modeled his game after Ware’s and who’s trying to bounce back from a rough year himself.
Miller’s season began with a six-game drug suspension and ended with a torn right ACL on Dec. 22. He finished with a career-low five sacks after collecting 30 in his first two seasons combined.
If both men can regain their health and their previous form, the Broncos should have one of the NFL’s top tandems to go with that prolific offense that carried them to the Super Bowl last year before they got destroyed 43-8 by Seattle.
For now, Denver’s new tandem is teaming up in the weight room during organized offseason workouts, critiquing each other’s moves and dreaming of pestering passers this fall.
”I’m excited about it,” Ware said. ”You can’t double-team both of us, especially with the big guys in the middle (Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams). Those guys are going to be holding it down, getting the pressure in the middle of the pocket.”
Ware said he’s not yet back to 100 percent – No. 94 said he’s at ”about 94 percent” – but that didn’t prevent him from getting right to work with his new pass-rushing partner when the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program began this week.
He and Miller did some ”ball-throws, abs and a little bit of biceps and triceps” in the weight room and watched tape together in the film room, Ware said.
”Some of the moves that he was doing on tape were some of the moves that I have been doing,” Ware said. ”I was critiquing him, he was critiquing me and it’s just a good thing to know that there are guys out there that look up to you. Now I have an opportunity to shed some advice onto him. He is a great player and I look forward to playing with him this season.”
Miller can’t wait to play alongside the man he emulated on the football field while growing up in Dallas and attending Texas A&M.
”It’s incredible. I was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan,” Miller said. ”I patterned my game after him. I always said to myself, `Man, I hope I get to play with DeMarcus one of these days.’ You know, it’s here. So, it’s a true blessing. I think it’ll be great.”
Miller won’t venture a guess, however, as to how many sacks the duo could muster in 2014.
”I don’t even want to think about that,” Miller said. ”I just want to go out there and grind as hard as we can. If we do that, Broncos fans, the Broncos organization, everybody will be pleased with what we do.”
He also isn’t stressing over his financial future.
The Broncos have until May 3 to exercise a fifth-year option on Miller’s rookie deal that would put him under contract for 2015 at $9.754 million. They could decline that option and still keep him in 2015 by placing the franchise tag on him at a slightly higher cost.
”That’s why I’ve got an agent, so I can just focus on football,” said Miller, who will make $3.24 million this season. ”I know if I just go out there and do everything I’m supposed to do, everything will work out all right.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton can be reached at astapleton(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/arniestapleton