ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Von Miller has a couple of new pass-rushing partners. What he really needs with Elvis Dumervil bolting to Baltimore is a new nickname.
Upon joining the Denver Broncos in 2011, Miller proclaimed that Dumervil was “Batman,” and that made him “Robin.” But with Miller piling up 30 sacks over the last two seasons to Dumervil’s 20 1/2, “Doom & Gloom” became a more fitting moniker.
Dumervil signed with the Ravens as a free agent in March after a fax fiasco in Denver during a contract renegotiation, so Miller finds himself leading a group of players trying to replace Dumervil’s production on the football field and his leadership in the locker room.
Miller said he ditched his offseason yoga regimen for more bench presses this year, and it shows. He has a noticeably thicker torso and biceps and said he’s packing 260 pounds. That’s five more than when he had his best games last year, and 23 more than his rookie season. He said he wants to put on a couple more pounds before the season starts, too.
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“Yeah, that’s always been a goal for me is to be bigger, stronger, faster and at my position,” Miller said. “I’m already undersized as it is, as much as I hate saying that. So as much mass as I can put on but still keep what makes me the player that I am, which is speed and quickness, just so long as I keep that, the more mass that I can put on and keep those guys off me the better.”
To that end, Miller said he spent some time working out with Houston Texans star J.J. Watt this offseason.
What separated Watt from Miller in voting for Defensive Player of the Year honors last year – by a 49-1 margin, no less – was Watt’s pass deflections. Miller makes no secret of his motivation to outshine Watt as the best all-around defender in years to come.
“Physically, J.J. Watt is just massive. He’s constantly in the quarterbacks’ face,” said Miller, who figures he’ll have to outshine his friend with more interceptions, forced fumbles, pick-6s and the like. “I don’t think anybody in the National Football League can deflect passes or play the way he plays, so I just have to pick it up in other areas of my game.”
What he pledges to match is his work ethic.
“Everybody knows the natural athletic freak he is, but he works at it every single day and I don’t think him winning Defensive Player of the Year was a surprise,” Miller said. “Because he worked at it at this time last year. And that’s the same thing I’m doing, I’m trying to work at it right now. Instead of just doing yoga, I really want to get my cardio up, I really want to get physically more in shape but I just want to be that guy for my teammates.”
When Miller wasn’t hitting the weights this offseason, he was tending to his new soon-to-be-tenders.
Miller, who studied agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M, said he bought 38 chickens to put in the coop at his eight-acre estate in Dallas.
“I named them all, all after players on the team. No, I’m just playing. I’m pretty excited about it,” said Miller. “I raised chicks in college in class but now it’s just a project for me to do it on my own and see where I go with it. … Hopefully, I’ll have chicken tenders for you guys in a little bit.”
The working title of his venture is Miller Farms, “but it’s all raw right now. I mean, who knows? I’m only in my third year in the league and this is just a small investment so I can see where I go from here. Hopefully, it’ll snowball into something bigger,” Miller said.
“I’ve got a couple of layers in there. When the hens get big enough, I’m going to keep those layers, but everybody else is going to be chicken tenders.”
That brings us back to his nickname.
When Miller met with the media on Thursday for the first time this offseason, he was asked if he could still be “Robin” with “Batman” in Baltimore.
“I think we have to change it up now. I think we have to still be the Super Friends League or something like that,” Miller said. “It’s up to you guys. Hopefully, the next time we meet you guys have a good nickname for the guys now.”
Miller was smiling, but he said dealing with Dumervil’s departure has “been tough. We were real good teammates but we were brothers off the field. That’s part of the business.”
He said he has faith in Robert Ayers, free agent Shaun Phillips and draft pick Quanterus Smith, who will be in the mix trying to keep pressure on quarterbacks next season.
Miller will likely be the one actually trying to fill Dumervil’s big cleats because he’ll likely line up at Dumervil’s old spot on the right side so he can torment left tackles on passing downs.
“I played on the left side going against right tackles, but for me, it doesn’t really matter. I play on the left, I play on the right, I blitz up the middle,” Miller said.
Before the fax fiasco cost them the man who had collected 63 1/2 sacks in Denver, Miller went on record guaranteeing the Broncos would win the next Super Bowl, something he’s not backing down from now that his pass-rushing partner has left him for the team that upset the Broncos in January.
“No, not at all. I mean, I stand behind it and you go in the locker room and you can ask all the guys in the locker room and I think they’re right there with me,” said Miller, who dedicated the upcoming season to his cousin who was injured in an auto accident. “I wasn’t being arrogant or cocky when I made the guarantee. It was something bigger than myself.
“I want to win a Super Bowl just like everyone else in the locker room and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there,” Miller said. “As you can tell from last year, it takes more than having a good team. It takes a little bit of luck.”
NOTES: Miller remains a big backer of former teammate Tim Tebow, who is out of an NFL job after getting cut by the Jets this week. “I don’t think it’s about wins and losses on the field. He’s a winner in life,” Miller said. “As long as you’re a great guy, as long as you have all your morals in the right spots, good things will happen. And I think that’ll go well for Tim. He’s a winner in life and he has a lot of great things in store for him.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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