CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Before the prime time dancing, the naked photo shoots for ESPN, the hosted Sunset Boulevard party with rapper O.T. Genasis, the endless stream of commercials and a sliming at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice awards, Von Miller was an outside linebacker.
A really good one.
Only Houston's J.J. Watt and Hall of Famer Reggie White have averaged more sacks per game in their career than Miller. The Broncos thought enough of Miller to reward him with a six-year, $114.5-million contract with $70 million guaranteed, the most ever for a non-quarterback. Whether the price would have been lower had it been done sooner? Perhaps. But general manager John Elway said he "didn't care (because) we feel good about where it ended up." With the paycheck comes responsibility. Miller will be counted on to anchor the NFL's top-ranked defense. He talked with Elway about his new status on Wednesday, their first face-to-face meeting since he agreed to his deal on July 15.
"I think he's aware of the pressure of the new contract. That's one thing I did mention to him. All of a sudden the standards and expectations are going way up," Elway said. "I think he will do just fine with that. "
Miller believes he will be ready to go on the first day of camp. The Broncos plan to be cautious. Miller looks good, insisting he found a way to fit in workouts whether that was "at 1 a.m., 3 a.m or 7 a.m." But great shape is not necessarily great football shape as receiver Demaryius Thomas discovered last year. The Broncos will assess Miller's conditioning, labeling him a "progression player." That means he will get little chunks at a time in team drills with time spent with the training staff. Tackle Russell Okung, returning from a shoulder injury, is on a similar schedule.
"I never got far away from working out. I am going to follow the (Broncos') lead. They got me to this point where I am now," Miller said. "But I feel totally confident in my ability to get back on the football field."
As the team's highest-paid player, Miller gained new stature. With iconic Peyton Manning gone, Miller is making quarterback money. Does that make him the new face of the franchise?
"I feel like our locker room should be the face of this franchise. We got a great locker room. There’s not a locker room like this in the National Football League," Miller said when I asked him the question on Wednesday. "Talking to the guys in the locker room that have come from other teams, that’s the first thing they say, that, this locker room is ‘second-to-none’ type of camaraderie that we have. The leadership that we have, you just don’t get in the National Football League so that will be the strength of our football team and I’m a part of that. DeMarcus (Ware) is a part of that. T.J is a part of that. We’re all a part of it and we’re just going to keep it pushing.”