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The 2013 NFL season was not exactly story book for Von Miller.
The Denver Broncos linebacker, and second overall pick in the 2011 draft, started the season with a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Other off-field gaffes including an arrest at a local Denver gun shop for a missed court appearance also added to Miller’s souring reputation.
When the suspension was up and Miller was eligible to return the Broncos, he looked different.
He had packed on 15 pounds of muscle – an intentional move to improve his run-defense. However instead of gaining power, Miller’s extra weight caused him to be slower around the corner. Fans that were used to seeing him explode and make the typical plays that garnered 30 sacks in his first two seasons, were let down and frustrated at the player they saw before them on the football field.
Miller only played in nine games in 2013, as he sustained an ACL injury in Week 16 on a non-contact play which sidelined him for the remainder of the regular and post-season. Once a sack machine, Miller only got to the opposing quarterback five times throughout the 2013 season, a career-low for the strongside linebacker.
This past off season, the Broncos added some key veterans to the defensive side of the ball in preparation for another Super Bowl run. In an interview with Keyshawn Johnson for ESPN, Miller explained how he contacted the Broncos in an effort to push them to go after veteran defensive end DeMarcus Ware if he were to become available.
“(That) if something come up where he’s going to be free, we need to pounce on top of that,’’ Miller said. “I modeled my game after DeMarcus … fanatical effort, relentless pursuit to the ball.’’
By bringing in someone Miller respects and emulated, the Broncos were hoping to turn the nightmare tale of 2013 for Miller into the happy ending everyone expected from the freakishly talented first-round draft pick.
Of course there was also the devastating injury that Miller needed to rehab from along with his bruised reputation. Back in April in that same interview, Johnson asked about the need to rebuild his reputation along with his knee.
“I’m going to go out there and play my game,’’ Miller said. “ When I get back to full speed I’m going to be ready to go. When you’re coming off an ACL it helps you re-evaluate what really matters to you and what really matters to me is playing football and be able to get back to that.’’
No one really knew what to expect from Miller at the start of this season, since returning from ACL injuries can vary greatly from person to person. Watching the way that Viking’s running back Adrian Peterson broke the mold when it came to rehabbing a knee injury of that magnitude by winning the NFL MVP award in his first season back gave fans hope that the old Miller would be out there playing for the orange and blue again.
So far in 2014, Miller seems to be revitalized and focused on the football field, playing like a man possessed. He has since shed that 15 pounds of extra weight and his power and burst have returned.
The plan was to ease him back slowly and through the first six weeks of the season, it seems to have worked. In Week 2 versus the Chiefs, Miller recorded his first sack of the season and he racked up another one the next week against the Seahawks. Heading into Week 7 with the Broncos already through their bye week, Miller is currently tied for third overall in the NFL with six solo sacks.
The 2014 version of Von Miller is on pace for double-digit sacks for the third time in his four-year career. His speed and explosiveness have returned and he is looking like the elite pass rusher we all saw in 2012.
If Miller can remain focused and stay the course, he should continue to have a major impact this season and fans in the Mile High City may just get their fairy-tale ending.
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