Denver Broncos: Michael Strahan

Waiting hard part for Smith, Carter

August, 2, 2014
DENVER -- Two of the Denver Broncos players most anxious to go about the business of Saturday's scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High are safety Quinton Carter and defensive end Quanterus Smith.

Carter has missed the last two seasons with knee troubles, an arduous road back from an injury in 2012 that has included microfracture surgery while Smith spent his rookie year in 2013 on injured reserve.

"I just take it day-by-day, but I'm glad to back on the field," Carter said. "I just want to make the most of it."

Carter last played a game on Sept. 23, 2012, spent the remainder of that season on injured reserve and spent last season on injured reserve as well. Carter has not missed any practice time in this training camp and has worked back to be in the rotation of backup safeties used by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

Carter, Rahim Moore and T.J. Ward have taken most of the snaps with the starters and Carter routinely comes into the lineup when the Broncos move Ward around the formation in some of the specialty packages.

In the scrimmage portion of Saturday's practice, the starting defense will get 12 plays worth of work against the No. 2 offense.

For Smith, he did not play last season because he was still recovering from ACL surgery in his final season at Western Kentucky. Smith took part in training camp and played in the preseason for the Broncos last summer, but when it came time for the cut to 53 players, the coaches believed he was still favoring the injured leg and needed more time.

This summer Smith has gotten plenty of work in the starting defense given Von Miller is still limited in his return from his own ACL surgery and DeMarcus Ware was held out of a handful of practices with a bruised lower right leg.

"He's a guy that has some natural rush ability," Del Rio said. "He's long. He's active. I feel like he's had a good start to camp. He's made progress and gotten better as the week has gone on."

The scrimmage will be the last public practice the Broncos have in this training camp. They have been forced to close their practices because of construction at their suburban complex.

Also, Saturday head coach John Fox will leave following the scrimmage to travel to Canton, Ohio, to attend Michael Strahan's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Fox was the Giants' defensive coordinator during some of Strahan's career.
The Denver Broncos hope DeMarcus Ware -- he of the 117 career sacks, seven Pro Bowl selections and seven seasons with at least 11 sacks -- can have a positive impact on uber-talented linebacker Von Miller in the days and weeks ahead.

And this week Ware said he received some advice from a Hall of Famer that the team certainly hopes works its way back to Miller.

As Ware prepares to enter his 10th season he was asked if he had taken the time to break down some of the great pass-rushers, including Hall of Famers, or sought them out for tips on maintaining a high performance level at this stage of his career.

"Actually, I have," Ware said as the Broncos opened their offseason program at the team's Dove Valley complex. "Actually, they got a little bit more consistent in what they were doing. I actually talked to Michael Strahan and he tells me, 'You know what? You've got to make sure you're lean. Make sure you're able to run, because your body now is a totally different deal once you hit the 30s. So you've got to make sure you're able to stay out there on the field and you have the endurance.' That's what I'm trying to do now."

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsVon Miller's weight was reportedly up to 270 pounds before he suffered an ACL injury that ended his season.
It is something Ware has been successful at throughout his career. The Broncos list Ware at 6-foot-4 and 258 pounds on their current roster. At the 2005 NFL scouting combine, Ware was listed at 6-4 and 251 pounds, so physically Ware is largely the same player now as he was when he entered the league almost a decade ago.

Ware said he had already spent time watching game tape with Miller, talking about specific pass-rush moves in a variety of situations against a variety of offensive linemen. But there are certainly plenty of people in and around the Broncos who hope Ware extends the message to Miller about staying lean.

Miller's weight was a topic of conversation last season when he returned from his six-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The bottom line is many Broncos' decision-makers and Miller's teammates saw him as a special player when he tipped the scales between the 246 pounds he weighed at the 2011 scouting combine and the 255 pounds he said he weighed during the 2012 season when he had 18.5 sacks.

But even before his suspension last year, Miller had made the decision -- for reasons he only described as "it could help me" -- to get bigger. He said he was just over 260 pounds when the Broncos gathered for their offseason program a year ago and by the time he returned from his suspension in October he said he was just over 270 pounds so he "could play with more power."

And while he flashed the disruptive play that put him in the conversation for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award in the 2012 season, Miller wasn't consistently the same player when he returned to the field in 2013 as he had been the year before. He finished with five sacks in nine games before he tore a ligament in his knee in December against the Houston Texans.

Given he is returning from an ACL injury, it would seem playing at a lighter weight would help take some stress off the joint even as he works to strength the muscles around the knee. The Broncos currently list Miller at 6-3, 250 pounds, but they also listed him at that last season when Miller said he weighed at least 20 pounds more when he returned in Week 7 from his league-imposed punishment.

But at a few offseason appearances, Miller has looked slightly leaner than he did last season. Broncos coach John Fox has said "everything is on target," with Miller's return, but he is expected to be limited during the team's organized team activities (OTAs) in May and June and, at the moment, is not expected to participate fully in training camp.

"Now I have an opportunity to shed some advice onto him," Ware said. "He is a great player and I look forward to playing with him this season."