Broncos' DeMarcus Ware ready to return after back surgery

Ware feels good, unsure of Broncos future (1:00)

DeMarcus Ware tells Hannah Storm he expects to be ready for next season and he hopes to be back with the Broncos. (1:00)

HOUSTON -- Just over a month after back surgery, Denver Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware said Friday he feels "like a new man" and that he wants to return to the field for the 2017 season.

"I definitely want to play. I've got a lot of passion. I'm always chasing that ring," Ware told ESPN. "People say if you get four sacks you pass this guy, or if you get five sacks you pass that guy -- four-this, five-that. But my biggest thing is always I want a ring while I'm sacking the heck out of the quarterback."

Ware, who won his first Super Bowl ring last season, had surgery in December to repair what the Broncos called a ruptured disk. He was placed on injured reserve just before the Jan. 1 regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders. He has since been working with the Broncos' training and strength and conditioning staffs during his post-surgery rehab at the team complex.

Ware, who will turn 35 on July 31, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. He said Friday that he recently spoke to new Broncos coach Vance Joseph and that Joseph indicated the team wants Ware back for the coming season.

"I talked to Vance and he said I'm part of the equation," Ware said. "Hopefully I come back there, and I want to, but it's also about the man who writes the checks and that's [team executive John] Elway. But I'm ready, I'm passionate and I want to lead that defense."

Ware added that "I'm working right there so everybody can see I'll be ready to go next season."

Ware said Friday doctors had told him during the 2015 season he would need surgery to repair the disk, but he elected to try to work through another offseason and make it through 2016. Ware missed five games this past season with a fractured forearm he suffered during a Week 2 win over the Indianapolis Colts; he said his back was "fine" when he returned from that injury.

"And it just started to get worse and worse until I finally said, let's just clean everything up, get everything right. And now my body feel stable," Ware said. "It's about getting the muscles around it stronger so I can go back out there and play."

Ware said the Broncos' Christmas night loss against the Kansas City Chiefs was the tipping point. He played only 25 snaps in the game and had surgery five days later.

"That Kansas City game was kind of it," Ware said. "I knew before that, maybe November, I was really headed toward surgery, but I tried to push through. That Kansas City game, though, was it. At that point I just thought I can have the surgery, get a week ahead and not be hurting. It was time to just go ahead and get it done before the last game."

Ware has missed 11 games combined in the past two seasons. He also missed much of the Broncos' offseason program and training camp last year as a result of an infection in his back that required him to be on an IV regimen of antibiotics.

Ware, a team captain, just finished the third and final season of a three-year contract he signed in 2014. He took a pay cut this past offseason to return to the team, and at that time the Broncos had outlined a plan to make him more of a pass-rushing specialist who would play in specific down-and-distance situations.

His four sacks and nine tackles this season were both career lows. Ware, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, is eighth all time in sacks, with 138.5. Among active players, he trails only Green Bay's Julius Peppers (143.5), who is fifth on the career list.

"I just felt like I needed to get myself back to health this time around," Ware said. "I tried to make it through the season, but it was the wear and tear and then you get to the point you can't do certain things because of the nerve. But I'm repaired, I feel right. I don't know what to do with myself now; I feel like a new man."