Derek Wolfe is a guy who leads by example. Considered to be one of the moral leaders in the Denver Broncos locker room, it came as a huge surprise when the league handed him down a four-game suspension for violating their performance enhancing drug policy (PED).
Wolfe claims he unknowingly took a medication during the offseason that contained properties on the NFL's banned substance list. At the end of the day, however, pro players are expected to know what they put in their bodies. Wolfe had no excuse.
But before he served his sentence, he vowed to his teammates and the fans that he would come back pissed off and in better shape than he's ever been.
“I'm going to go train my ass off, that's what I'm going to do," Wolfe said in August. "I'm going to train every day and embrace the day. I'll come back in even better shape than I left camp.”
Wolfe is fortunate that his team managed to weather his suspension about as well as they could have. Sitting at 4-0 heading into Week 5, the Broncos defense has been the best unit in the NFL, especially in rushing the passer.
In defending the run, they entered yesterday's game vs. the Minnesota Vikings as the sixth best unit, but allowed 113 yards—81 of which came from Adrian Peterson. Wolfe's return will bolster that aspect of their game immediately.
“I expect him to hop right back in," head coach Gary Kubiak said today. "I know that he's been working hard. It was great to see his face here in the room a few minutes ago. I just left the team meeting. I think Derek is a guy that takes care of himself. We know that he can help our football team.”
Wolfe will step back into his starting role as the left defensive end in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense. At 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, Wolfe was born to play the 5-technique in a odd-front defense.
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Wolfe has been quietly productive. And he's started every game he's played. With 91 combined tackles and 11.5 sacks, we haven't seen him touch his ceiling yet.
That will change in 2015. Not only is he finally playing in a scheme that suits him, and not only is he coming off of a suspension highly motivated, he's also playing in a contract year. And he's four games behind.
“I haven't talked to the coaches yet, but I trained hard," Wolfe said today. "I worked hard. [Defensive Line] Coach Bill [Kollar] just took me out there and put me through a surprise workout to make sure I was working out. I'm ready to go. I'm like a caged animal right now. I'm ready.”
The Broncos will have to make a corresponding roster cut to make room for Wolfe on the roster. Guys who've been on the inactive list are the primary candidates to get the ax. With his knee still working back to full health, Kenny Anunike is not exempt from the possibility, especially considering that he has plenty of practice squad eligibility left.
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