Wesley Woodyard (credit: CBS)

Wesley Woodyard (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is no longer a role player on the Broncos. After a terrific 2012 season, the starter has become a key player on a versatile defense that’s projected to be among the league’s best this season.

Woodyard is excited to be a vocal leader who speaks up in team meetings and in the locker room, but off the field he’s not saying too much about some of the team’s game plan.

One of the elements Woodyard is keeping quiet about is new arrival Shaun Phillips and how he will be used.

“You never know, man. That’s going to be a surprise I guess. Teams are going to have to wait and see,” Woodyard told CBS4’s Vic Lombardi on Xfinity Monday Live.

Woodyard said Phillips, who has spent all of his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers to this point, “can do a little bit of everything.”

“In that 3-4 as an outside linebacker not only can he put his hands on the ground but he can stand up,” Woodyard said.

Team management wants defensive players who are versatile, and another free agent signed in the offseason is veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

“DRC is one strong cornerback, and he works hard every day. He’s been looking for something like this — to have a locker room filled with guys that are going to support him and make sure he puts his best work out there on the field,” Woodyard said.

Two returning Broncos defensemen who may have bigger roles this year include Nate Irving and David Bruton. In both cases the players have been standouts on the Special Teams unit but they may now be pushing their way into starting roles.

Irving, who the Broncos drafted in the third round in 2011, is in the midst of what Woodyard says is a four-way battle for the middle linebacker position. (The team opened the door to some young talent at the position after allowing both Keith Brooking and D.J. Williams to become free agents.) It should be one of the most interesting position battles to watch when Training Camp gets started later this month.

“I’ve been in there working with him, and Nate’s attitude has changed dramatically. I’m excited to see what he has out there on the field when we actually put on the pads,” Woodyard said.

Woodyard said he wasn’t surprised to see safety Bruton getting lots of starter’s reps at the end of the team’s minicamp practices.

“Brute has a great burst, and he’s a ball hog who knows how to make plays. It’s exciting to see him take the same path that I took: special teams and now a chance to be out on the field with the defense.”

On the offensive side of the coin, Woodyard said he thinks the signing of tackle Ryan Clady to a long term deal was a key move.

RELATED: Broncos Sign Clady For $57.5M, 5 Years

“It’s good to see my fellow rookie classmate get broke off like that. It’s well deserved,” Woodyard said. “He works his tail off, and he’s one of the best.”

He said the signing will certainly give quarterback Peyton Manning all the more reason to want to keep his career going in Denver. Not having a solid offensive line for Manning would be “like having a bank with no walls,” in Woodyard’s opinion.

– Written by Jesse Sarles for CBSDenver.com

See more video clips from Xfinity Monday Live with Wesley Woodyard, including a guest appearance at the Tavern Downtown by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.


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