ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The proof will always be in what happens in the weeks, months and seasons to come, by how he conducts himself, but Broncos linebacker Von Miller says 2014 is a new season and that he, in most ways, is a new guy.
"I'm a way different person from what I was five years ago, a year ago," Miller said. "I'm definitely different, more mature. I'm one of the oldest guys in the linebacker room now. I was talking to Wesley [Woodyard] the other day, and I was like 'Bro, I'm one of the oldest guys in here right now,' and we started laughing so it's just part of it. Just have to grow up."
The Broncos certainly want to leave the Super Bowl behind, to turn the page on the 35-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks to close out the 2013 season and move on to the business of 2014. But Miller would like to box up most of what the '13 season had to offer -- a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy to open the season, a torn ACL to close it and largely up-and-down play in between -- and lock it away.
But by most accounts Miller has done what's necessary since the Super Bowl loss. He has worked judiciously through his rehab and, as Broncos executive VP/GM John Elway has put it, Miller "looks ready to put last season behind him and get back to being the Von we know he can be."
Miller will always have a special spot in whatever becomes of Elway's tenure as the Broncos' top football executive. Miller was the first draft pick after Elway was hired for his current job, the first-round pick of the 2011 draft (second pick overall).
He's also a key piece in what the Broncos hope will be a defense that does far more than ride along in the slipstream of one of the league's highest-scoring offenses. And though training camp is just two days old, it's smooth sailing thus far for Miller.
The Broncos are easing him back into action; he is limited to essentially individual work and 7-on-7 drills right now. Elway said he expects Miller to be cleared for full contact by the time the Broncos get to their third preseason game.
"I've been on a great game plan with Greek (Broncos head trainer Steve Antonopulos) and the guys and they have me on a very good schedule and I'm just following those guys," Miller said. "... I think it's a mission every year. I want to be the best and that's my mission and I'm aiming for it and I'm working hard for it and that's where my head's at right now."
But the Broncos like what they've seen from Miller, especially since there is less of him to see. The fourth-year linebacker made it a point after his surgery to drop the weight he added during the 2013 offseason and while he was suspended.
Miller is far closer to the 255 pounds he said he weighed during the 2012 season when he had 18.5 sacks than to the 270 pounds he said he weighed when he returned from his suspension in his quest to play with more power.
Even in limited duty during OTAs, minicamp, and the opening practices of training camp, Miller has looked far quicker and more explosive than he did in practice last November and December. And those who know him say Miller has been helped on all fronts by DeMarcus Ware's arrival.
"And we all feel good when we see [Miller] like that," said linebacker Danny Trevathan. "That's a big part of our defense, what those guys can do in the pass rush."
"I think it just made me a better person," Miller said. "Adversity reveals character and I think all the stuff that happened, I handled it well and I'm in a blessed situation to be where I'm at today. I'm not looking at all that stuff ... I'm looking forward and just grinding it out."