After a tumultuous 2013 season that included a torn ACL and a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller will make one of his first public appearances of the offseason Monday when his foundation hosts just over 100 Denver-area children who are in need of prescription eyeglasses at Sports Authority Field.
Outside of his post-Super Bowl attempt to get in a Seattle Seahawks victory party in New York City this past February, Miller has kept a fairly low profile in Denver as he works his way back from December’s ACL surgery.
But Miller did sit down with ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson during a recent promotional appearance in Los Angeles. Miller offered few specifics in how his knee was coming along, but did say he wanted to return to the field better than he was at the time of his injury.
“I’m feeling good, I had a schedule that’s all I can ask for,’’ Miller said. “I’m not going to rush it, I’ve got good training guys with the Broncos, they’re going to have me back in time ready to go.
“With today’s medicine and what’s going on now like ACL, it’s really not as serious as it used to be,’’ Miller continued. “I’m a 100 percent positive I’ll be able to come back not only be the same Von, (but) I got to be better. You come back and be the same guy it’s like you go ‘it’s the same Von again’ and I got to be better.’’
Miller also told Johnson he considered new teammate DeMarcus Ware, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Broncos last month, to be a mentor. Miler said he contacted Broncos officials shortly before Ware’s release by the Cowboys to express the hope the Broncos would sign Ware if the veteran were to be on the market.
“(That) if something come up where he’s going to be free, we need to pounce on top of that,’’ Miller said. “I modeled my game after DeMarcus … fanatical effort, relentless pursuit to the ball.’’
Johnson also asked Miller about the need to re-build his reputation, after his suspension and other off-the-field issues Miller faced last season even as herehabs his knee.
“I’m going to go out there and play my game,’’ Miller said. “ … When I get back to full speed I’m going to be ready to go. When you’re coming off an ACL it helps you re-evaluate what really matters to you and what really matters to me is playing football and be able to get back to that.’’
Miller had 30 sacks in his first two seasons with the Broncos, including 18.5 in 2012. But last season began with the drug suspension as well as several other off-the-field missteps including an arrest at a local gun shop for a missed court appearance.
He returned to the lineup slightly heavier than he had been in the season before -- an intentional move to help him play with more power. In the end he had a career-low five sacks in nine games before leaving the Broncos’ Dec. 22 game before halftime with his knee injury.
Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said he believe Miller “has matured and … needs to put last year behind him.’’ Broncos head coach John Fox said recently he believes Miller’s recovery from knee surgery is “on schedule’’ and that Ware’s presence on the roster will help Miller.
“He’s coming off an ACL, that’s touch and go and right now he’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing in that process,’’ Fox said. “Just another question mark … I suspect with today’s medicine and how guys recover from those surgeries, he should be fine.’’
Miller is still facing at least some long-term obstacles beyond his injury to return to his elite status among the league’s pass rushers.
Since Roger Goodell became the league’s commissioner in 2006, 132 players suspended for at least one game under either the substance-abuse policy or the policy on performance-enhancing drugs started just one-quarter of their career games after serving the suspensions, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The players, as a group, started 74.4 percent of their career games before their suspensions and just 25.6 percent of their career games following.