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Broncos legend DeMarcus Ware previews 2024 Pro Bowl Games, reflects on the Broncos' progress in 2023


ORLANDO, Fla. — DeMarcus Ware may be retired, but he's still stacking Pro Bowls.

Selected to the league's annual all-star game nine times as a player, the former Broncos great and Pro Football Hall of Famer is making his second appearance as a coach in the reformatted Pro Bowl Games this week — albeit as an opponent of fellow Hall of Famer and former teammate Peyton Manning.

Ware is the defensive coordinator for the NFC team, while Manning is the head coach for the AFC. It's not a dynamic Ware is unfamiliar with, as he played against Manning three times before joining forces with him in Denver and eventually winning Super Bowl 50.

"I competed against Peyton — I hated that," Ware joked on Wednesday in an interview with "I liked playing with Peyton, because we won a championship in Denver. I never liked playing against him because I know he's got his schemes and the things that he does, he always wants to win. He got me my championship up there in Denver. It's going to be a good competition this week."

As a Pro Bowl Games coach, Ware is 1-0 after last year's NFC victory, but the experience goes beyond just the football. There's also the forging of bonds across generations of football's top players, and it has allowed Ware to give back to the community in NFL-led projects, like one on Wednesday at Orlando's Rock Lake Neighborhood Center, where Ware participated in a PLAY 60 jamboree held after several renovations to the recreational facility.

"It's actually really cool because you get so much respect from the guys," Ware said. "The coaching aspect is totally different, but the thing is, whatever your scheme is, the players run it. I know we won last year ... but I just think it's fun. And it's a great experience that we get to do things like we're doing right now, impacting the community."

Ware, naturally, will strengthen that bond with the Broncos' three representatives — safety Justin Simmons, cornerback Pat Surtain II and return specialist Marvin Mims Jr. — during the week of Pro Bowl festivities.

"Those guys have worked so hard, and they're the core of the team," Ware said. "And when you've got guys like that making an ample amount of Pro Bowls, being the best that they are at their positions and also as leaders on the team, it's what the Broncos need."

To be able to welcome Simmons to Orlando may be particularly meaningful, though, as Ware and the eighth-year safety shared the field in 2016 during Ware's final NFL campaign and Simmons' first.

"It's been, I don't know, six years, seven years since I've been up there in Denver and played, but I just remember him, what type of character he was, what type of player he was — a phenomenal player," Ware said. "And he hasn't let up yet, and that just lets you know how good of a person he is, and that's why he wears that 'C' on his chest."

As the Broncos prepare to make more strides after recording their first season with at least eight wins since Ware was last on the roster, he looked back on the 2023 season as a step forward.

"The progress was tremendous," Ware said. "When they first started off, it was a little rocky … but halfway through the season, you really saw everything come together. ... And we're playing games close, and when you look at the end of the season and they say the Broncos still can make the playoffs, that lets you know that you ended the season the right way. And now the only thing you've got to do is just pick up the pieces for next season and we'll be right where we need to be at."

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