DENVER —** When Shane Ray tore a ligament in his wrist during training camp, DeMarcus Ware got the itch.
He missed the camaraderie in the locker room, the adrenaline and the roar of the crowd after a sack.
But he wouldn't scratch that itch. Why he retired — to halt the wear and tear that playing in the NFL for 12 years causes — kept him on from making a return for a 13th season.
"My back was a reason," Ware said. "I couldn't play with my kids and I couldn't sit down. There were a lot of reasons why. You want to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor after football. That big part was my kids. Now, I have that opportunity and reap those benefits."
The scene is set at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for the Broncos' Week 2 matchup against the Cowboys. (Photos by Gabriel Christus, unless noted)
Returning to Sports Authority Field at Mile High with his two children, DeMarcus Jr. and Marley, was clearly one of those benefits. A couple hours before kickoff, Ware beamed as he walked the sideline he used to roam as one of the most-feared pass rushers, and he watched his son toss a football with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
"You can never get experiences like this right now, like [DeMarcus Jr.] throwing the ball with Demaryius Thomas and playing with some of the guys and meeting with some of the new players," Ware said. "It's great. … It's a great opportunity for him to experience and for my family as well."
Ware, who was honored as an alumni captain during the coin toss, showed his support for both sides before the game, but the reaction of his most-recent former teammates demonstrated the impact he had on the Broncos in just three seasons in orange.
"I love the mark I left here," Ware said. "Just having the opportunity to change so many people's lives here and in Dallas. You can see that if you do things the right way, you don't have to do it perfectly, but if you are positive, you can trickle off and have that mentality and impact a lot of people here."
After Sunday, Ware will return to his second career in the television business. He's part of a Thursday-night panel on NFL Network and has also been working as a team captain on ABC's "Battle of the Network Stars" reboot.
"I've been doing a lot of broadcasting," Ware said. "I work with NFL Network now doing a Thursday-night recap, so they've thrown me out there — and I'm doing a players-only show. So I'm just putting my sea legs out there and seeing where it goes."