DENVER -- Eight months ago, Rahim Moore stared into the possibility of a future without football -- and, much worse, without his left leg.
The sudden onset of compartment syndrome made his departure from the Week 11 game over Kansas City meaningless. Even after his leg was saved, the loss of muscle left him with a season lost, and an arduous recovery with no guarantee of success.
That's made the milestones of his comeback this spring and summer little miracles unto themselves. The first workout with teammates since the injury. The first practice during organized team activities. The first day of training camp.
And, finally, his first step onto Sports Authority Field at Mile High in uniform since last Nov. 17, when he left the field in agony, but without knowing exactly what was wrong.
"At the beginning I got a little teary-eyed. I missed the stadium. It's kind of like a dream come true. I feel like it's my first time out here," he said.
"I was crying. I just envisioned myself and all the other times I've come out of the tunnel."
Moore was emotional because of how close he came to losing it -- and because of the grueling rehabilitation he endured to reach this point, where he believes his leg is stronger than before.
"Oh yeah. I'm, like, 126 percent," he said. "I'm fine. I'm faster and stronger than I was last year."
It's good timing, because this could be this could be the pivotal season of Moore's career, for reasons that go beyond injury. He's with a team that has realistic Super Bowl aspirations once again. He's in the final year of his first contract. Bot the best of these reasons is that he now plays alongside T.J. Ward, one of the most coveted free agents in this year's class.
Check out photos from the Broncos' first practice at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The two share a lengthy history, dating back to when they played for high-school football powerhouses in California -- Moore at Dorsey in Los Angeles; Ward at De La Salle in Concord, in the Bay Area.
"We had a friendship from back in high school through college," Moore said. "He went to Oregon; I went to UCLA. So our whole lives, man, we've been helping each other out and competing with each other."
Their skill sets complement each other perfectly, and their personalities mesh well, too.
"We're two goofballs off the field, but when we come on the field, me and him are trying to be the best tandem in the league," Moore said. "He's been a great addition, he's been a great friend."
And an outstanding safety, too -- something Moore, with one less season in the NFL, looked on his way to becoming before compartment syndrome interfered. Ward's presence will help. So will the arrivals of Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware, and the returns of Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris Jr. If the talent comes together and there are fewer injuries than in 2013, Moore and others could create a special defense.
"Man, I was telling my coaches yesterday that we're playing faster than I've ever seen us," he said. "We're reacting. We know our assignments and we're doing them well."
And the defense can do that at an even higher level because Moore is back, and positioned to take the step he was poised to make before last November.