In sports and in our daily lives, we are all going through transitions. Whether it’s moving from one job to another, having kids leave the nest and head out on their own, or going into retirement, we will all go through some type of major shift in our routines.
What fans don’t take into account is that this also happens with our football heroes, as is the case with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
When Denver Broncos GM John Elway signed Ware in 2014, it was with two improvements in mind. The first was, obviously, improving the defense to give players like Von Miller more one-on-one opportunities rushing the passer.
The more subtle improvement Elway looked for in the Ware signing was bringing in a veteran leader on the defense that the younger players could look to, while Ware himself was still physically able to contribute.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... Now entering his 13th season in the NFL and his third with the Broncos, Ware will be going from a three-down player to a specialized pass rusher, who will be deployed on third downs or on obvious passing situations.
This is an attempt, on the part of the coaches, to keep Ware playing at a high level and to protect him from injury, as a nagging back issue has hindered his production last season.
As a valued veteran presence both on and off the field, Ware was recently asked if he felt like he was up to filling the leadership void on the team in the absence of the retired Peyton Manning.
“I think so. I take on that challenge," Ware said. "Guys come to me for a lot of leadership and a lot of knowledge. I've been playing for a while and I just keep pushing it out there and hoping that it portrays on the field.”
With the back injury that befell Ware last season, the Broncos training staff is looking to keep him as fresh and effective as possible this upcoming season. When he was asked how healthy he was last season and how badly he was injured, DeMarcus Ware gave a candid and humorous reply.
“I feel better than I did at the end of last season," he said. "I probably was playing at 70 percent in the Super Bowl, just trying to be a little effective. Now, I feel like I’m 94 percent and I really feel like I can go out there and play a little bit.”
It won’t be easy for a player of Ware's stature to go from a full-time to a part-time contributor. While that shift would lead some to be passive and complacent in their role on any given football team, we don’t see that attitude coming from Ware. He's still got that fire in his belly.
“I think a competitor is a competitor," he said. "I approach it each and every year like that. Someone asked me, ‘Since you won the Super Bowl, is everybody going to be after you?’ I said you have to flip it around. We’ve always been the chaser. That’s the type of team we are. We always feel like we’re behind the curve. That’s why we’re always chasing the prey and doing better. That’s what this team is about, competition and trying to be the best. That’s how I’ve lived my career and the team is doing the same thing. We’re looking forward to what’s to come this year.”
DeMarcus Ware is entering this new phase in his career, much like he did when he first broke into the league, with fiery determination. Even though he realizes that he won’t be contributing on the field in the way he has over the last decade, it won’t stop him from being a valuable asset to the team in gameday.
Even though Father Time is creeping up on the veteran, do not count on him slipping into bifocals and easing into a rocking chair just yet. Ware will prove his value as a mentor to younger players like Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett, or by stepping in on third down to bring down opposing quaterbacks.
Through those contributions, DeMarcus Ware and the Denver Broncos are setting their sights on another Super Bowl run.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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