ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** DeMarcus Ware's career has led him to some pretty spectacular heights through his first 10 seasons, but one place it hadn't gone was past the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. That drought will end on Sunday when Ware and the Broncos take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Ware had been to the playoffs in just three of his nine years with the Cowboys, and regardless of whether the team was a wild-card team squeaking into the postseason or a dominant division winner, Ware never had a shot to play in a conference championship game.
The Broncos began their on-field preparation for the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots.
Now that he finally does, he knows he can't let this opportunity get away from him, or from those who are getting here without needing 10 previous seasons to do so.
"I think when you talk to the young guys, you have to put things in perspective," Ware said. "They look at you and say, 'DeMarcus Ware, you've played for 11 years.' I look back at them and I tell them, 'When I was 13-3, I lost in the playoffs. When I was 9-7, I lost in the playoffs. When I was 12-4, I lost in the playoffs.'
"I say, 'Guess what? I lost in the playoffs last year also. I've been in this thing 11 years and you've only been in this thing for one year and you have the opportunity to do something great.'"
His teammates have responded, and for a person and a player like Ware, they want to help him reach the next level, too.
"We want to keep that going for him. It's special for him and it's special for me, too," outside linebacker Von Miller said. "He was one of my idols growing up, a guy who I have the utmost respect for. I want it just as bad as he wants it. We're going to go out there, and I want to be able to play that way. It's always easier to do something for somebody else, and we definitely want to get it done for DeMarcus."
Ware's anticipation is almost palpable, as his teammates learned quickly. "They've asked me, actually, 'Are you ready?' I said, 'Are you kidding me? What do you mean, Am I ready?'" Ware said. "I've lost four times and I have an opportunity now to do something great."