ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --"If the game was tomorrow, I'd be out there playing."
That's DeMarcus Ware's ideal. But it's not his reality as he opens training camp on the sideline as he continues to deal with a "lingering back issue" that sidelined him during OTAs in May and June.
He was placed on the NFI list this week, which prevents him from taking part in any on-field activities until he is cleared. All he can do during practice is watch his teammates.
But Ware doesn't necessarily need training camp to be ready. Being healthy for the regular season is what matters, although he said he hopes to put the pads on before the preseason ends.
"If you do something 12 times, I think that's enough. This is 12 years for me, and I know what I'm doing," he said. "But it's now all about getting your body ready for the long haul and that's a 16-game season and getting ready for the postseason.
Ware said he feels soreness in his back, but not any lingering discomfort. He says he doesn't feel the injury hinders his explosiveness.
"Now it's [about] strengthening, making sure it's strengthened through the whole season instead of saying, 'Okay, you're just ready to play for the first preseason game," Ware said. "Let's get it to the point to where it's iron-clad and can withstand the whole season."
Ware has been dealing with back issues since last season, when he was injured against the Raiders in Week 5, returned in Week 8 against Green Bay and then was forced back to the sideline seven days later in the loss to Indianapolis. After the recurrence of back trouble, he was brought along gradually, not returning to his usual workload until the final two weeks of the regular season and the playoffs.
Even in the postseason, Ware acknowledges he was only at "about 70 percent." That's a fairly amazing level given how explosive he was during the playoffs, when he racked up 3.5 sacks, four tackles for losses and 12 quarterback hits.
Ware's goal for the regular season opener is to be at "94 percent," he said, smiling at the allusion to his familiar uniform number.
"I think it's something that's fully healed," Ware said. "I feel good about it, and I think I'll be ready.
"Actually," he added, "I know I'll be ready."