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‘Thirty-what?’ Broncos’ Von Miller ready to prove himself after uncertain offseason – Denver Broncos Blog



ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller stares into the mirror he still sees his mindset in 2020, his sack total in 2018 and his rare ability to take over the big moment — as he did in Super Bowl 50 — looking back at him.

He wants all of it to be part of his 2021 season after missing 2020 because of ankle surgery.

“That mindset that I created last year is a permanent thing,” Miller said. “It wasn’t a one-season thing. I felt like last season was going to be the season, but I feel like this season is going to be a great season, too. Just refocus with that same fire and that same intensity and just grind it out. I’m still running around here beating everybody’s ass, so I feel like, 30-what? Until I see otherwise, I’m going to keep doing it and I’m going to keep going.”

Miller’s return for an 11th season with the team that selected him second overall in 2011 was a question mark. He’s coming off the ankle injury, turned 32 in March and had some off-the-field issues.

Broncos general manager George Paton said the team monitored a January investigation by Parker (Colorado) police in which Miller had been named. No charges were filed, and the district attorney’s office for the 18th Judicial District released a statement in March confirming the case did not meet the standards of probable cause of admissible evidence “to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt” in an investigation “in which there was never a citation, arrest or filing.” Neither the police nor the district attorney have said what they were investigating or what charges Miller could have faced.

It came at a time when Miller and the pregnant mother of his son had engaged in heated text exchanges that were subsequently posted on social media. Throughout those weeks and months, Miller had not responded for requests to comment, and up until the district attorney’s announcement, Paton had said the Broncos were “going to let the legal process play out” before making a decision on Miller’s future.

Shortly after the announcement there would be no charges, the Broncos engaged a 2021 option in Miller’s contract that included a $7 million guarantee on his $18 million base salary. Miller had not publicly addressed any part of the investigation until this past week as the Broncos moved through the first set of organized team activities.

“We wanted to get everything resolved, and hopefully and gratefully, we got everything resolved,” Miller said. “Everything is done and we’re just focusing on football right now. That’s all it is. Everything’s resolved and I’m in a great place to really put all that stuff behind me and just focus on football.”

Last summer, on the field, Miller looked to be more fit than ever as he roared through training camp. He said at the time, as he was poised to begin his 10th season, he had studied the consistent, day-to-day intensity of athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan to find that edge.

And then he took an awkward step near the end of a practice days before the regular-season opener and missed the remainder of the season. The Broncos, who have hoped to see the impact of Miller and top 2018 draft pick Bradley Chubb together, were robbed of that for a second consecutive season. Chubb, who recently had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs, suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 of 2019, and then Miller missed 2020.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio said he’s seen signs Miller is as ready for the upcoming season as he was a year ago before the injury.

“I’ll never want to put a ceiling on a guy, especially a guy with his talent and his ability,” Fangio said. “I still see a guy that’s capable of playing like he was four, five, six years ago. It’s going to be up to him to put in the time and effort in the next few months to get his body right. … You need to do more to maintain that level of play once you start getting into your 30s like he is and playing the position he is. There’s no doubt in mind that he can do it.”

Miller’s last season with double-digit sacks was 2018, when he had 14.5 during Chubb’s rookie year. That was also the last year, since 2015, when Miller showed a finishing kick down the stretch. He had 3.5 sacks in December in 2018, but had one sack in December in 2016, 1.5 sacks in December in 2017 and one sack in December in 2019.

Adding to Miller’s motivations is his team’s lack of success recently against the Kansas City Chiefs. Miller often mentions his personal frustration that the Broncos haven’t beaten the Chiefs since Peyton Manning was behind center in September 2015.

“I’ve got to prove something,” Miller said. “It’s not to you guys or the GM or anybody like that. It’s to myself. I love this game; I want to be a great. [The way others] feel about Kobe and Jordan and the type of guys they were in their sport, I want to do the same thing for my guys and my teammates. The time is now. I’ve been working hard, I’ve been grinding. I’ve been doing everything I possibly can do off the field to be a great player on the field.

“When all of this stuff starts coming together, it’ll be great. That’s all I think about.”

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Montez Sweat ‘not a fan’ of COVID-19 vaccine despite Washington Football Team bringing in expert to address players



ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Football Team defensive end Montez Sweat said Wednesday he wasn’t persuaded to take the COVID-19 vaccine after listening to an expert discuss the matter with him and his teammates, highlighting a battle that remains not only in the NFL but in society as well.

Washington coach Ron Rivera had an immunologist who is a leading coronavirus vaccine researcher speak to the team Tuesday. Kizzmekia Corbett answered questions and provided information about the vaccine via video conference call, hoping to lessen fears.

Rivera said his players are approaching a 50 percent vaccination rate, while his staff and the rest of the employees in the building have all been vaccinated. Rivera has also met privately with players, trying to present information or have a conversation about their concerns.

“I’m not a fan of it,” Sweat said Wednesday of the vaccine. “I probably won’t get vaccinated until I get more facts and that stuff. I’m not a fan of it at all. I haven’t caught COVID yet so I don’t see me treating COVID until I actually get COVID.”

The NFL has loosened restrictions for those who have been vaccinated, allowing them to go without masks and to not be tested daily for COVID-19.

Unvaccinated players are still subject to all this, as well as contact-tracing quarantine policies. They also will be unable to interact with other players when traveling, or with family and friends on the road. They can’t eat in the cafeteria and must adhere to capacity limits in the weight room.

“Obviously they want everybody to be vaccinated to move freely around the facility and with traveling,” Sweat said. “But everybody has their own beliefs and they’re entitled to their own decision.”

Sweat said the players have a “constant conversation” about this topic. Rivera called it a choice for players, one that he’d like them to make in favor of the vaccine — but he doesn’t want to force it upon them.

“The big thing is we’ve got to be able to facilitate the opportunity for these guys to understand,” Rivera said. “There’s a lot of messaging that’s out there, they get it off of Twitter and some of it is good, some of it is bad. I’m not sure if these guys watch the news as much as I do and try to gather enough information but we are really trying to help them because if we can get to that herd immunity we can really cut it loose and really be able to spend time with each other.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID tracker, 63.8 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a vaccination; 42.3 percent have been fully vaccinated.

“I know myself and all these other guys were exposed to what you might call fake news or just rumors on social media about the vaccines, and maybe conspiracies and stuff like that,” Washington rookie wide receiver Dax Milne said. “Some guys are obviously for it — getting the vaccine — some guys still have a little bit of hesitancy. But personally, it was good to hear the real facts, and I plan on seeing a lot more people getting the vaccine on the team.”

Milne said he had heard about deaths from vaccines and other side effects. But, he said, Corbett told them there were a lot of fake articles that peddled misinformation.

Milne said she also told them, “that when it gets down to the real facts and the actual studies that they’ve done, with real information, there’s been no deaths from it.”

“I don’t want to speak out of turn,” he said, “but it sounded a lot more safe than we all thought it was. I think we’re feeling a lot more comfortable with it now.”

Offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles said, “Learning new stuff like that — I learned plenty of stuff yesterday about the vaccine that I had never heard, so it was good to hear.”

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Green Bay Packers QB Jordan Love ‘definitely’ ready to start Week 1 if needed



GREEN BAY, Wis. — Watch Jordan Love one day and he will look miles away from being the Green Bay Packers‘ starting quarterback. Come back the next day and he will look ready right now.

Such was the case for Love’s first two days of the team’s mandatory minicamp — its first without camp holdout Aaron Rodgers. How does that bode for Love’s chances if he has to start the regular-season opener Sept. 12 at New Orleans should Rodgers’ tenure with Green Bay be finished?

Love said he will be ready.

“A hundred percent,” Love said when asked if he is prepared to be the Week 1 starter. “Obviously, this is a time where I’m getting a lot of extremely valuable reps that I might not have been getting in a normal circumstance. So I’m just going to take it day by day. … But yeah, that’s what I’m here for. I was drafted here to play quarterback, so I’ll definitely be ready Week 1.”

The Packers’ 2020 first-round pick, the one they traded up to get and therefore start the clock on Rodgers’ eventual end in Green Bay, sure looked ready on Wednesday.

One day after he struggled with accuracy and completed barely more than half of his throws, Love shined.

It started with a 30-yard pass down the right sideline to running back AJ Dillon and got better from there. There was a Rodgers-like free play for a 45-yard deep ball to Allen Lazard, a deep corner route dropped perfectly into the hands of wide receiver Juwann Winfree for another 30-yard pickup and a carbon copy of the Dillon throw to Aaron Jones for another 30.

Love was so hot with his throws that at one point tight ends coach Justin Outten pretended to use his play card as a fan to cool off the quarterback.

“Listen, you can never get too high and never too low in this game,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after practice. “One of the biggest emphases for Jordan is just to treat each play as its own entity. We’re always grading the decision-making, the timing, the accuracy, and we want to see the consistency just continue to get better and better.”

Love completed 20 of 31 passes during 11-on-11 periods Tuesday, including 7-for-10 during a drill-winning two-minute drive that he capped with an 8-yard touchdown pass to an outstretched Lazard in the back of the end zone.

LaFleur continued his practice of giving Love most of the work. Rather than dividing reps with Blake Bortles and Kurt Benkert, LaFleur has allowed Love to stay on the field for long stretches. During one period Tuesday, Love took 16 straight snaps. His longest stint Wednesday was 10 straight plays.

This after Love took only minimal reps last year as the third-string quarterback.

“Every day is a new learning experience,” LaFleur said. “And when you have limited reps and you weren’t getting the bulk of the reps all throughout the course of the season — and this is never an excuse; it’s just reality, right? There [was] no preseason [last year], so there’s just a ton of learning that’s going on.

“It’s great to see when he does have success because again that will build the confidence, and that’s really what we’re looking for. But also, it’s everybody else around him, too. When they’re playing at a high level, it makes that guy’s job a lot easier.”

The crash-course approach is LaFleur’s insurance in case Rodgers continues his holdout into training camp and beyond.

Love admitted that he doesn’t know what to expect from Rodgers and said he was “just as surprised as you guys” that Rodgers skipped minicamp.

By all accounts, Rodgers and Love forged a strong working relationship last year even though Rodgers admitted that Love’s arrival likely changed the way he envisioned his career would end. In fact, Rodgers said last month on SportsCenter that his issue has never been with Love but rather is about an organizational philosophy he believes has strayed from its foundation.

Love said he has stayed in touch with Rodgers throughout the offseason; in fact, they spoke shortly before Love arrived in Green Bay for OTAs last month but declined to reveal the specifics of their conversation.

“I’ve just been living my life, man, trying to do what I can do to get better in this offseason and obviously not knowing what’s going to happen next,” Love said in his first session with team reporters since Aug. 20. “My main thing’s been controlling what I can control and do my best to get better every day so that I’m ready whatever the circumstance may be come [the start of] the season. Just do my best to be ready for myself, for the team and for everybody here.”

Love said that would have been his approach whether Rodgers was around or not.

This way, however, he’s getting a whole lot more work.

“My mindset this whole offseason’s been to get ready, get myself ready, and that’s been my mindset since I got here,” Love said. “Whether Aaron was here or not here, that’s going to be my mindset regardless, because I have to get myself ready to play and be able to go out there and take charge of the team and be able to perform at a high level and do my best so everybody else can do their jobs as well and just be able to perform at a high level.”

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Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott ready to move on, says he has ‘buried’ ankle injury



FRISCO, Texas — After going through organized team activities and two days of the Dallas Cowboys‘ mandatory minicamp, quarterback Dak Prescott pronounced himself back from a dislocated and compound fracture of his right ankle that forced him to miss 11 games in 2020.

“I’ve buried the injury,” Prescott said after Wednesday’s practice. “Honestly, guys, you know me, from the point of practice, from the point of just moving forward and going about my life, I’ve buried it mentally. And I think you guys and a lot of people around have to help me in burying it as well as we move forward.”

Prescott can even pinpoint the exact day he got past thinking about his ankle.

“Had a good Cinco de Mayo, was a little active and at that time maybe did some little dance moves and I felt like I’m ready to go,” Prescott said. “So that was the time that I said in my head, ‘The injury’s gone.'”

Prescott suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ Week 5 win against the New York Giants on Oct. 11. He underwent surgery that night and a subsequent surgery in December that was unrelated to the dislocation.

While Prescott’s rehab went well, he still had to see what he could do on the field during the offseason program. He was kept out of only 11-on-11 work so he would not have to deal with defenders or offensive linemen falling into his legs.

“Just knowing that I could do all the different drops, get away from pressure when I need to,” Prescott said. “I’m sure you guys see the scramble drill that we’ve done a few times. That was a big one for my confidence, just being able to pivot and turn out left, get out to the right, change directions, not feeling anything and then look at the tape and realize day by day that I’m running more smoother, I’m getting better, I’m using my legs more when I throw. Those are just all building blocks and steppingstones for me to get where I want to be. It’s just exciting.”

On Tuesday, Mike McCarthy said he anticipated Prescott to take part in every portion of practice once training camp starts in July, but the team will be smart and listen to the quarterback if he needs a day off or to cut back on some work.

Prescott said any next-day soreness he experienced earlier in the offseason has subsided.

“I think the first couple of days we were also on the turf, maybe that played a part in it; doing more true just more drops and football movements than I have in the rehab part of it,” he said. “From the first week of even teaching sessions to now, I left practice, will leave today, hopefully no soreness, no residual swelling or anything like that. I say that because with all that gone and none of those effects, that’s what allows me and helps me bury it, to be honest with you guys. I don’t even think about it before practice, pre-practice, but still doing all the necessary things and being smart that I am still only seven months away from the injury.”

Prescott was given a recovery period of four to six months at the time of the injury. Teammates marveled at how he attacked his rehab even after signing a four-year, $160 million contract earlier in the offseason. He has been a regular at The Star for rehab and workouts, while also continuing to work with his personal quarterback coach. He will continue to throw to receivers and running backs before training camp begins while only taking a small breather.

“Whether that’s training here, training with our guys or heading out to California and getting some more positional work,” he said, “I’ll do all the things necessary to, as I said, be the best I can be heading into camp.”

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