Editor’s Note: This Q&A story ran in the Sept. 9 Gameday program, when the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 in the season opener.
Is your mentality any different entering the season as a starter versus when you had to compete just to earn a roster spot?
“No. It’s no different. I’m always feeling like I need to earn my spot. I need to go out there and perform the best and just outplay everyone so I can earn my spot on the team. I’ve always had that mentality ever since I’ve been in the league and I think that’s the one thing that won’t change about me.”
How important is it to be a leader of the linebackers?
“It’s important because the young guys, they want somebody to look up to. When it comes to me, I’m not really a guy that likes to talk much. I just like to go out there and lead by example, lead by my play. I just try to go out there and do what’s best for the team and be a good role model, a good person to look after.”
Do you like to take on a leadership role with some of the younger players?
“Yeah. I have a pretty good sense of where this defense is going and how Coach (Defensive Coordinator Jack) Del Rio wants to call it. I have guys come up to me with questions all the time. So far I think I’ve been pretty right. You just have to continue to work and continue to be in Coach Del Rio’s pocket so I can understand what’s going on.”
What is it like for you as a middle linebacker playing with pass rushers like
“Having a guy like Von Miller and (Elvis) Dumervil coming off the edge, it makes life for us cover guys a little easier. We know that the ball is not going to be held too long by the quarterback. It’s going to come out fast and we just have to make sure we’re in the right position to make the play. We love having those guys coming off the edge and they’re going to do some big things for us.”
How excited are you that the regular season is finally here?
“I’m real excited. I’m excited because I know that the potential that we have, that we can definitely do some great things this year. Starting this Sunday night it’s going to start for us and we get a chance to come out here and show everyone. We know that the fans are going to be excited. We’re just looking forward to playing.”
What do you think will be going through your mind when you come out of the tunnel?
“Basically, it’s finally here. This time, when we’re coming out of the locker room, when we’re coming from out of the tunnel, it counts. It’s time for guys to step their game up. Let’s just go out there and play football.”
How much has the defense improved working against quarterback
“We got so much better. Starting from back in minicamps, just the fact that we had minicamps this year compared to last year, I feel like we’re a lot better. We’re all on the same page when it comes to concepts of the defense. Going against Peyton, that’s like an added bonus. You don’t really get a chance to go up against quarterbacks as great as that guy is, a future Hall-of-Famer. And we get a chance to go up against him every day. He definitely makes us better.”
Do you and the defense embrace flying under the radar as so much attention is focused on Manning and the offense?
“We don’t really pay too much attention to all the limelight. We let the offense get that. We go out there, we just like to do the dirty work, just try to get them the ball back so they can keep points on the board. That’s how we strive and that’s how we’re going to continue to strive.”
How excited are you to have so many games on national television?
“We don’t really pay too much attention to playing on TV. We just like to go out there and play for each other. Just go out there, play for the team, try to get wins on the board, just try to be a better team so we can make it to the Super Bowl this year.”
How exciting is it to open the season with a rematch of a memorable playoff win over Pittsburgh last season?
“It’s cool. I know they’re going to be looking to come out here and get a win. We definitely have to make sure we come out with our best ball. It’s going to be a tough game. They’re going to come out and try to show off their best (effort) and we just have to be able to stop them and try to get a ‘W’.”
How important is it for you and the defense to pick up the intensity against a physical team like the Steelers?
“I think we’ve already done that. I think with the way that we practice, with the way the coaches coach us, and what they expect out of us – they expect us to be a physical game. That’s a given. We definitely have to come out there and be physical. We know they’re going to be physical, so we just have to be ready and not only match their intensity, but overcome it and try to overpower them.”
What is it like playing against a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger who can scramble and improvise?
“That’s one thing, he can definitely get out of the pocket. He’s a big guy and he definitely doesn’t go down easy. We see that he breaks a lot of tackles, so not only one guy but we need to get two or three guys on him. When it comes to playing him against the pass, we have to have tight coverage. The type of quarterback he is, the caliber of a quarterback he is, he can get the balls in there in really tight spaces. If we have tight coverage and if we get two or three guys on him at a time, I think we’ll be able to stop him.”