ENGLEWOOD -- Von Miller arrived for the Celebrity Softball Game with diamonds in his teeth. When he smiled, they offered a cool reflection. That's what stars do, right? They shine.
The Broncos need Miller at his best -- or least his best for age 32 -- if they are to return to relevancy. The future Hall of Famer enters the final season of his contract aiming to rebound along with Pro Bowl receiver Courtland Sutton and stout nose tackle Mike Purcell.
Von missed 2020 after dislocating his left ankle tendon in a practice before the opener against the Titans.
Uncertainty shrouded his future last spring. In the end, after a brief flirtation with free agent Leonard Floyd, the Broncos picked up Miller's $18 million contract option, valuing his talent, leadership and presence.
When Von is right, opposing tackles can't even block him on Twitter. However, he has not changed games with regularity recently -- in part because of an abysmal Broncos offense that fails to secure leads, allowing teams to use risk averse passes for huge chunks of the game.
Still, the stats speak to the challenge Miller faces, though he will benefit from playing alongside Bradley Chubb. Chubb had bone spurs cleaned out of his ankle in the offseason, and could be worked in gradually in camp, but told Denver7, "I am feeling like $$." In the lone season the pair played together, they combined for 26.5 sacks in 2018.
In 2019, Von posted eight sacks, his lowest total since 2013 as Chubb was limited to four games following a knee injury. This represents a crossroads season in every way for Von.
Will the eight-time Pro Bowler return to form and finish his career as a Bronco or deliver pedestrian numbers that signal his exit?
Von remains at peace, and is ready to reclaim his spot among the game's elite.
"I just tried to change that focus a little bit. Like you said, I had a chip on my shoulder last year," Miller told Denver7. "I am just trying to chill and have fun with the guys. Last year I was in the meetings super serious, 'I am 31 and they say I can't play anymore.' Now, I know what I can do. I know the player I am. I know how much football I have left in me."
Last year Miller arrived in training camp looking like a Greek statue. He was ripped from relentless training. While it improved what he saw in the mirror, it did not translate to the field.
So, he adjusted.
"I started way early, and now I am just trying to focus on the timing. It's a huge deal for me. Instead of going super hard in January through May, I just kind of pushed it back a little bit," said Miller, who arrived in Denver three weeks before camp instead of his customary two days to get acclimated. "I have come up with a different game plan to attack the season."
As for the quarterback: Of course everyone asks Von his opinion. Monday, NFL Network reported Aaron Rodgers will return to Green Bay for one more season. Miller braced for this conclusion two weeks ago.
"Which one (are we talking about)? Teddy, ARod, Drew Lock? It's been crazy. But I am OK with the guys we have now. These guys have impressed the hell out of players on this team," Miller said. The guys we have now, I am super excited whether it's Drew or Teddy."
Stability at quarterback could help Sutton microwave his return. He caught three passes last season before tearing his left ACL. Not surprisingly, Sutton poured himself into rehab, drawing praise from coach Vic Fangio for his wok ethic.
Sutton emerged as the Broncos' best offensive player in 2019. If he's close to that this season, it would go a long way in helping Denver finally score at least 21 points per game for the first time since Peyton Manning retired.