DeMarcus Ware has been disrupting offenses for a long time. He has sacked Brett Favre and Jon Kitna as well as Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. As he enters his 11th season in the NFL, the surprise is not that he is still playing, but the level at which he is playing his position. Pass rushing is a young man’s game. Speed, agility and conditioning are key, but somehow Ware, at 33 years old, is in spectacular shape and is hitting the ground running.
He is tied with teammate Von Miller on Pro Football Focus as the second ranked 3-4 outside linebacker through two games. He also just recorded his 129th career sack, moving him into 13th all-time and according to him, this is just the beginning.
“This probably the best I’ve felt in a long time. Probably because of how the practices are tailored and how they really are taking care of us and making sure we are fresh,” he said following the Week 1 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
In his first season with the Broncos, Ware was recovering from a litany of injuries in his last season with the Dallas Cowboys and came back strong. He had eight sacks through nine weeks in the 2014 season, but only finished with 10 total.
His reunion with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips this offseason has clearly re-fueled him and returned him to his preference in a 3-4 defense. Thursday, Ware admitted as much and also said that the slump in the second half of 2014 bothered him when he was asked about it by the media.
“I really pounded myself this offseason and told myself, ‘How consistent can you be?’ That’s what I really brought myself on through the offseason and now during the season week in and week out,” Ware said.
Ware is a physical specimen. He boasts sub-10 percent body fat and weighs in at a svelte 258 pounds while standing at 6-foot-4. In the offseason he posted ridiculous videos of his workout regime to his Instagram account and showed off a figure that puts most of his young teammates to shame. “He’s a physical specimen,” Malik Jackson said Thursday from his locker two slots down from Ware’s.
Ware approaches his craft with a sharpened intelligence and – much like his knowledge of rushing quarterbacks – he shares his off-field nutrition and workouts with his teammates. It appears to be helping the Broncos, who now have a stable of formidable defensive players.
“I talk to him about how he takes care of his body, his eating habits, how he maintains his body fat, his workouts and even when guys are done he is in the weight room getting extra work,” rookie outside linebacker Shane Ray said Thursday. “With DeMarcus, he has been in the league for so long that he knows what to do. For me being a rookie, I don’t know. I have an idea, but I don’t know. I can say with DeMarcus he really helps you understand things and apply it to yourself.”
The help on and off the field with his teammates is not just a kind gesture by a veteran. Ware wants this team to be the best and be consistent. If Ray, Shaq Barrett, Lerentee McCray and others can help keep Ware stay fresh throughout the season by getting some playing time, it will keep his body in the great shape that it is in now. So far Ware has been impressed with his fellow pass-rushing teammates
“Depth is key when you’re playing against teams that like to pass the ball, that like to run a lot of screen plays and knowing that the ones are just as good as the twos and having guys that can come in and make plays. You can see from these first two games there’s not a drop off and guys are getting out there and playing,” he said Thursday.
The Broncos spent a lot of money to get Ware to Denver. His three-year, $30 million contract runs through 2016 and it was his consistency that gave John Elway the confidence to sign him for so much money. Through his previous 10 seasons he played in all 16 regular season games all but once. In 2013 he played in only 13 games. In those 10 seasons he only had two sub-10 sack seasons. One was his rookie year of 2005 (eight sacks) and the other 2013 (six sacks).
Despite the great numbers, even a future Hall of Famer can’t escape good-natured teasing, but it always comes with an added amount of respect.
“We joke around with him. We say he’s got a V8 while we are driving V12s,” Ray said with a chuckle Thursday. “But one thing about DeMarcus, when it is time for the game and to dominate, he looks like he is 22 years old. You can’t even argue with how great he is and what he does.”
Ware may be ageless and when you ask Miller, a fellow “sack master” as Ware calls him, he isn’t surprised by anything his teammate does or the shape that he is in.
“He looks like DeMarcus Ware. He’s looking fit, fast and quick. He’s on the quarterback every time that he’s throwing the ball. I think that this is the DeMarcus that we all saw when he was in Dallas,” Miller said Thursday. “The type of DeMarcus that I see in practice and the games is the type DeMarcus that I know that he can be. It’s great when you have a healthy guy that’s out there playing and everything is going good.”
Ware has two sacks in two games accompanied with seven quarterback hurries. He is a half sack ahead of his total at this time a season ago and he appears even quicker than last year. It is clear that his no-nonsense approach to everything football is keeping him young and dangerous to opposing passers. The Broncos defense is already running on all cylinders, but as Ware surely knows from his 10 seasons in the NFL, it is not how you start but how you finish.