ENGLEWOOD -- The popularity of Von Miller traces through several arteries. He won Super Bowl 50 MVP. His smile belongs on a Crest commercial. He moves well -- he appeared on "Dancing With The Stars" -- and rushes the passer like few who have ever played the sport.
Miller, 32, is experiencing a career renaissance, earning AFC Defensive Player of The Month honors Thursday after posting four sacks and six tackles for a loss in three games. An offseason decision continues to pay dividends. Von has found peace, becoming more Zen Diesel than Vin Diesel at this stage of his career.
"I stay off social media, stay off Twitter and all of that stuff. I come in and stay in my groove and spend more time at the facility with my guys. I feel like that really simplifies things for me," Miller said. "Sometimes if you are on social media, it can send your mood up and it can send your mood right down. I just try to stay in my own little groove.”
Teammates notice a difference. Von is a future Hall of Famer. But after missing last season and becoming a new father, he has approached this season differently. Motivation found him easily with Von's career at a crossroads after missing all of last year because of a dislocated ankle tendon.
"I think Von was the bear that got poked during his rehab. He heard the things about him not being the same guy. He’s on a mission to prove not just to everybody else, but to himself that he is who he is," said Courtland Sutton, who grew closer to Von as both rehabbed injuries. "People questioning Von Miller: It’s Von Miller. His mindset isn’t going to change. I never second guessed him.”
General manager George Paton elected to exercise Miller's contract option on the final year of his contract last March. He made it clear that he believed Von could "still play at a Pro Bowl level." He might have shortchanged him. Miller is on an All-Pro arc, on pace for 23 sacks. Even if he settles at 15, it would represent a remarkable rebound and leave him in position to win comeback player of the year honors.
Von continues to view this season through a tighter lens. The Broncos are 3-0, but face their toughest test to date in the 2-1 Ravens, known for their rugged run game and former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“We’ve got a great team coming up this week. It’s really like a playoff game early in the season. A lot of the guys on this team have never played a playoff game. And that’s kind of been my message to the guys. It's a playoff game early in the season," Miller said. "It’s time for us to show what we’ve got against a worthy opponent.”
Slowing Jackson remains critical. He has sat out the past two days of practice with back soreness. But the Broncos fully expect him to play and be a handful.
"He's fast. He's quick. He can go from zero to 60 yards in the blink of an eye," Miller said. "We have to have tight coverage and tight run gaps. This is a unique team with a unique QB and we have to be able to match those guys."
Former Denver South High legend Calais Campbell is coming home as a member of the Ravens. Campbell nearly signed with the Broncos as a free agent several years ago, but it didn't work out. The defensive end remains a force. He posted four tackles, two for a loss, and a quarterback hit in the win over the Lions.
"It's very exciting. It brings you back to the days when this was just a dream. I remember the days of being in middle school and high school dreaming of this. For me to be here today, 14 years in, and to be able to go to Denver and play a football game in the stadium I used to dream about is pretty surreal," Campbell said. "I was a big fan until I played against them. Once I did that, all that was out the window."
Dalton Risner (foot) and Graham Glasgow (knee), the Broncos starting guards, did not practice for the second straight day. Coach Vic Fangio said both could play without practicing this week. Their backups are rookie Quinn Meinerz and second-year player Netane Muti. ...
Running back Mike Boone is practicing in hopes of playing on special teams on Sunday.