ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Any veteran NFL defensive back knows that confidence is essential to his job. When you get beaten on a play, you must have the resolve and belief in yourself to bounce back within 40 seconds.
So it's no surprise that Darian Stewart displays confidence that he will earn the starting free safety job, even with competition from the defense's longest-tenured active player, David Bruton, and the eventual possibility of cornerback Bradley Roby seeing some snaps at safety.
"It's my position to lose," Stewart said Wednesday. "When I line up, man, I feel like at this level you've got to have that confidence. When I signed here, man, I knew [that] it's my job."
Stewart's confidence was bolstered by a 2014 season with the Ravens in which he played all 16 regular-season games for the first time in his five-season NFL career. His play improved; he reduced his mistakes in coverage and cut his rate of missed tackles.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak, then Baltimore's offensive coordinator, took note of Stewart's play, helping bring him to Denver in March. Last year, Stewart did his part to get noticed by Kubiak and the Ravens' offensive coaches.
"There would be times at practice, I would just go down there and mess with the offense just to see what they had going on, and try to pick their brain and learn their plays," Stewart said. I tell you what, it's something I just couldn't play, offense. Their play(calls) are too long, and it's crazy. It's like learning a whole other language. But it was fun working with them."
Exposure to Baltimore's offense and good health allowed Stewart to enjoy the best season of his career.
"When I'm healthy, I'm one of the best in the league, I feel like," he said, again letting his confidence break through. "As long as I'm healthy and staying on the field, my play is going to speak for itself."
A series of hamstring problems contributed to him missing 11 games during four seasons (2010-13) with the St. Louis Rams. To remedy that issue, Stewart spends extra time stretching before practice, and gets some assistance to help him out.
Check out photos of new Broncos safety Darian Stewart from his previous five NFL seasons.
"I have a stretch guy," he said. "I'm really big on stretching, no matter how bad I'm down."
That's as essential during offseason work as during the regular season, given the competition he faces and the need for repetitions so he can learn a new defensive scheme and build chemistry with T.J. Ward.
Ward and Stewart have skill sets that complement each other; Ward can be a thumper in the box and on intermediate routes, while Stewart fares better in coverage. However, Stewart said they could swap those roles from time to time.
"[Ward] plays both (safety) positions well," Stewart said. "He's able to play the ball in the air, and I'm able to play down in the box. So we just switch it up. We're interchangeable."
That's an early theme of coordinator Wade Phillips' defense: being able to move players around at any line of defense. But to enable versatility among players, the scheme must be easy to learn -- which Stewart says is the case with this "straightforward" scheme.
"I love it," he said "Not too complex, and it's player-friendly. It allows you to make plays."