GOLDEN, Colo. — Derek Wolfe exhausted treatment efforts to heal an achy hip to play last Thursday night. He embraces the grind and the pain as part of his chosen livelihood. But like anyone who works hard, he wants the reward. He wants the fun. So losing to the Chiefs for an eighth consecutive time -- a vibe-killing defeat that has the Broncos open to trades -- stung Wolfe, one of the longest-tenured veterans on the team.
"Our days are long, our practices are long, we put in so much work and to go out there and get embarrassed like that. Man, it breaks your heart," Wolfe said Monday at a promotional event.
At 2-5 with playoff hopes fading, the Broncos will look to move players to free time for prospects for the second-straight season. It is becoming increasingly likely the team will deal receiver Emmanuel Sanders, with the Niners, Panthers, Eagles and Patriots among the teams interested in an upgrade. Under similar circumstances last year, general manager John Elway shipped Demaryius Thomas to Houston for a fourth-round draft pick.
"It's a business. That's the nature of this business. Here one day, gone tomorrow. That's the way it goes," said Wolfe when I asked him how the locker room deals with the uncertainty entering next Tuesday's 2 p.m. trade deadline. "There is no loyalty in this league anymore. It's gone. You have players who show loyalty, but you have teams that show no loyalty. I think the Broncos are one of the teams that does show a lot of loyalty. At the end of the day, they have to make a decision for what's best for their business. If trading somebody is best for their business, that's what they've got to do. You can't expect them to make bad business decisions based on emotions."
For Wolfe, the last few years remain jarring, a violent juxtaposition. He began his career in 2012 by claiming four straight AFC West titles as the Broncos advanced to two championship games, winning Super Bowl 50. He longs to win again, but his focus remains on what he controls.
"That's the thing, I try not to get too caught up on the stuff going on upstairs and whatever is going on in the locker room, I try not to get too caught up in that either. I just try to do my job everyday," said Wolfe, who has 19 tackles and two sacks this season. "I try to bring some kind of fire, bring the attitude, that's what I try to do. I don't get caught up in all the other stuff on whether this guy is going to get traded or that guy. They said I was going to get traded, too. To me, it's whatever."
For Wofle, the hope of a U-turn traces to the defense. During the Broncos' two-game winning streak, they didn't allow an offensive touchdown. The Chiefs scored 30 points, but one touchdown came on a strip sack and a field goal was gifted by a long punt return. Wolfe sees progress in coach Vic Fangio's first year, but knows the Broncos must improve dramatically to stand a chance at Indianapolis.
"I think we played good enough to win a game on defense (against Kansas City). But we gave up 30 points. We haven't given up anything like that in a while," Wolfe said. "It makes you sick."