Von Miller’s comeback off to fast start for unbeaten Broncos

By ARNIE STAPLETON - AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Von Miller took his AFC Defensive Player of the Month honor in stride Thursday.

Not so his BFF.

While the usually loquacious linebacker was on the podium saying things like, “when you have team success, individual awards like that come,” mild-mannered kicker Brandon McManus was doing jumping jacks behind the cameras in a failed attempt to get Miller to crack a smile.

“Yeah, it’s cool,” Miller said of his fourth career monthly honor and first since 2016, which he won by getting four sacks and six tackles for loss in the Broncos’ 3-0 start.

In his return after missing all of 2020 with a freak ankle injury, Miller had sacks in each of the Broncos’ three September games, which included take-downs of the top two picks in the NFL draft, Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars and Zach Wilson of the Jets.

Miller said he didn’t enter his 11th NFL season with anything to prove after missing all of last season with a dislodged ankle tendon.

“No, I’m at peace,” Miller said. “I just be chillin’.”

McManus was bummed when Miller got hurt on the eve of the opener last season because his buddy didn’t get to show off his new, buffed physique he’d worked on all offseason.

So, naturally he’s thrilled by Miller’s comeback.

“Well, make sure you write this: I think dad bods around the world will rejoice because now he’s a father,” McManus said of Miller, who became a first-time father last month with the birth of his son, Valor.

Not that Miller has a paunch or beer belly, mind you. On the contrary, he’s still fit with a physique that belies his 32 years.

“Whatever he did last year, the muscle he put on, he still looks the same,” McManus allowed. “But now he’s a father, so we can consider him a dad bod.”

Best buds can rib each other like that.

“I’m his biggest fan,” McManus said. “I don’t cheer on the sidelines because I try to stay mentally focused. But inside when he gets sacks, I’m always extremely happy for him.”

McManus said he and Miller talked a lot about his comeback in 2021, which is the final season of the star pass rusher’s six-year, $114.1 million deal that he signed after winning Super Bowl 50 MVP honors. McManus said Miller was exactly like he said, at peace with it all.

“We talked about that and there’s certain freak athletes in this world that can do anything,” McManus said. “You’ve got Tom Brady and he’s not an athlete in the sense where he’s running around and doing this. But there’s players and athletes in this world that can continue to do things at ages that don’t make sense to you and I.

“Von’s built that way and he’s one of them,” McManus added. “We have the same massage and stretch therapist and Von can do almost a complete split on the ground like a gymnast — at 260 pounds! At that age! And I can barely move and I’m a kicker.

“So, like I said, it’s incredible what someone like him can do, but that’s why I don’t think age is a good marker for him,” McManus said. “He’s somebody that will want to go above and beyond.”

Miller, who is godfather to the second-born of McManus’s twin sons, came into camp talking about wanting to play several more seasons, preferably in Denver.

“He has a young attitude,” McManus said. “He’s obviously got a new look on life with his son. I saw Peyton (Manning) and all the other guys at training camp, their kids are out playing and throwing the balls and enjoying their father playing. Now that he has a son, Valor, there’s no doubt in my mind he wants his kid to see him play.

“So, he’s got another two, three, four, five years of excellent play,” McManus said, “and obviously, I’ll be on the sidelines continuing to watch and enjoy.”

Then, McManus headed back inside the Broncos training facility, turning around to once again offer a suggestion.

“That should be the title: dad bods around the world rejoice!”

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