By Arnie Stapleton
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. _ Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller has officially returned to his old form. He’s been named the NFL’s AFC Defensive Player of the Month for the second time in his career.
The other time was in November 2012 when Miller was in the midst of a franchise record 18 1-2-sack season.
Then came the 2013 season, when Miller missed the first six games while on suspension and the last one after tearing his right ACL, an injury that sidelined him for the Super Bowl.
After playing sparingly in training camp and getting his legs under him in September, Miller helped the Broncos go 4-0 in October while collecting 14 tackles and a league-best seven sacks and helping Denver limit its opponents to a league-low 258.8 yards per game.
“It’s great. I think it’s a testament to the type of defence we’ve been playing,” said Miller, who mentioned the work done by his defensive tackles, especially Terrance Knighton, that’s allowed him and DeMarcus Ware to collect a combined 16 QB takedowns.
“That’s what it’s about,” Ware said. “It’s not about the individual guy getting it. We feel like it’s a team win as a defence and we’re playing well right now. And now we’re just trying to keep it going.”
Miller said this is the kind of season he had in mind when he was going through an arduous rehab program in the off-season with teammate Chris Harris Jr., who tore his left ACL in January.
Asked if he’d have thought a Player of the Month honour was possible while he was grinding through his rehab, Miller said: “I already knew that was coming. I already had my mind set on that stuff. I know the type of work that I was going to put in that I was going to get some success from it.”
Miller joined former cornerback Champ Bailey, who announced his retirement Tuesday, as the only two-time conference Defensive Player of the Month for the Broncos since the award was initiated by the NFL in 1986.
Miller’s nine sacks so far are second-most in the NFL and his streak of six straight games with a sack leads the league and is tied for the longest of his career.
Defensive co-ordinator Jack Del Rio said some of Miller’s outstanding play can be traced to the off-season arrival of Ware.
“DeMarcus being here has maybe prodded him to great heights because of the competition,” Del Rio said. “DeMarcus is kind of like the wise old guy that’s done it for quite a while.”
Notes: RG Louis Vasquez (illness) returned to practice Thursday. … RB Ronnie Hillman (shoulder) was limited as was TE Virgil Green (calf). … TE Julius Thomas penned a piece in “The Players’ Tribune,” founded by Derek Jeter. A late bloomer in football, the former college hoopster wrote, “Not that long ago, I was a joke.” … OC Adam Gase on calling 48 runs and just 36 passes for Peyton Manning the last time the Broncos visited New England: “It hurt my soul a little bit.”
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton