Von Miller fades into the Broncos background

All-Pro linebacker Von Miller donned a scout team skullcap over

his helmet Wednesday and spent much of practice helping the Denver

Broncos prepare to play more than a third of the season without

him.

Miller was part spectator, part tutor when he wasn’t squaring

off against Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady as a member of Denver’s

scout team in his first practice since the NFL handed him a

six-game suspension for violating the league’s drug-abuse

policy.

Nate Irving took his place at strongside linebacker in the base

defense alongside Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard, and Shaun

Phillips replaced him at rush end in the nickel packages as the

Broncos began working on Plan B following the NFL’s verdict.

”I don’t know that one guy can take Von’s place,” coach John

Fox said. ”I just know collectively as a football team we have to

all pick it up.”

It was a cloud that hung over the team all of camp. Now, at

least, the Broncos know they’ll be without their disruptive

defender for the first six games of the regular season and that

they’ll have to generate pressure and make stops in other ways.

”The only difference is the guys that back him up are licking

their chops getting a chance to step up and make some plays,”

Woodyard said. ”We’re going to definitely miss his presence on the

football field for those six games but I have no doubt in my mind

he’s going to come back and continue to be one of the best

players.”

Phillips noted that instead of sulking on the sideline, Miller

spent Wednesday’s workout schooling rookie defensive linemen John

Youboty and Sylvester Williams on the finer points of a slippery

pass rush.

”He keeps himself involved,” Phillips said. ”He’s a

locker-room guy. He’s the guy that makes everyone laugh and is out

there coaching the young guys. He’s giving me pointers and giving

other guys pointers. He always does that. That’s Von’s attitude.

He’s always helping out everyone else.”

Miller can continue practicing with the Broncos and can also

play in their last two exhibition games before his Aug. 31-Oct. 14

banishment, during which time he’ll be allowed around team

headquarters and can keep his team-issued iPad playbook but won’t

be able to practice or play in any games.

For weeks, the Broncos and Miller expressed confidence things

would turn out differently.

Miller insisted when word first broke about his pending

suspension last month that he had done nothing wrong and Fox

insisted on practicing Miller with the starters, suggesting that to

do otherwise would be tantamount to not playing Peyton Manning for

fear that his star quarterback might get hurt.

Although the Broncos have tinkered with contingency plans for

weeks, Miller continued getting the bulk of the work at practice

with the starters until Wednesday.

Despite encouragement from the team to speak with the media,

Miller politely declined interview requests as he walked off the

field after practice.

”He’s upset. No one feels more upset about this than him,”

Phillips said. ”He felt like he let his team down, he felt like he

let his family down, his name down. I don’t know how well you guys

know Von, but he’s an amazing guy. He’s not a bad guy. He made bad

decisions, but he’s not a bad guy, or a bad person.”

With Miller facing suspension and Stewart Bradley needing

surgery on his left wrist, the Broncos shuffled their linebacker

corps this week, signing 12th-year pro Paris Lenon. They also moved

Woodyard from the weak side to the middle and inserted Trevathan,

the starter in the nickel defense alongside Woodyard, into

Woodyard’s weakside spot in the base.

”Whatever combinations we end up using, we expect them to play

at a high level for us and help us win,” defensive coordinator

Jack Del Rio said.

Phillips, for one, embraces, the new defensive

configurations.

”Whether I’m playing defensive end or linebacker, it really

doesn’t matter,” he said. ”Football is football. At the end of

the day, you tackle the guy with the ball.”

Few are better at that than Miller, who has 30 sacks in his

first two pro seasons, but now that he’s in Stage Three of the

NFL’s drug program, he faces up to 10 drug tests a month for the

rest of his career with another slip-up carrying at least a year’s

banishment.

Phillips said Miller will learn from his mistakes and suggested

the Broncos will ultimately gain from these trying times, as

well.

”Pressure can either break you or pressure can make diamonds,”

Phillips said. ”Everyone’s hitting the panic button (on the

outside). We haven’t even played the game yet. We’ll be quite all

right. Football is about 11 players at a time doing their job, not

one player doing his job.”

Notes: DE Malik Jackson filled in for Robert Ayers (foot)

opposite Phillips. … C Ryan Lilja (knee) missed practice

again.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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