ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The ever-evolving Von Miller is not done growing.
As he recovers from the ankle injury that derailed what looked to be a triumphant bounce-back season in 2020, Miller has taken the mental approach that helped him reshape his body a year ago and made slight adjustments to hopefully lead to the best results.
"I feel like I had a great mindset last year, but it didn't come to fruition for me," Miller said Tuesday. "It didn't happen for me, so I had to [go] back to the drawing board and just put these little tweaks on my mindset, and I just want to be at peace."
Being at peace, though, does not mean complacency, Miller emphasized. It's an unbothered confidence that comes with age and a mental clarity of purpose.
While his first full season away from football was a painful one, as he could only observe Broncos games during his rehab from an ankle injury, it did allow him to reach that kind of enlightenment for which he was searching.
"Honestly, sitting out last year, it really helped me be at peace," Miller said. "Being at peace and being content, they're two totally different things. I feel like you can be at peace with whatever happens, but you still want to go out there and lead the league in sacks, get Defensive Player of the Year, and do all this crazy stuff, but I'm honestly at peace with whatever happens."
Perhaps in some way, being forced to watch from the sideline returned Miller to an appreciation of the most basic parts of the game he's been playing since childhood.
"I just want to play football, I want to be in the locker room with the guys, I want to go out there and just play football," Miller said. "I don't want to be really worried about sacks. Of course I want to go out there and do all the things that I've done before, but honestly I'm really at peace. I feel like that gives me an internal peace as well. I can just go out there and focus and be at peace with whatever happens."
A major reason that Miller can be at peace is that the defense may be the Broncos' most talented unit since 2016. In the offseason, Denver added new cornerbacks in Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and Pat Surtain II and is returning a talented group across the board with Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons as 2020 Pro Bowlers.
With that kind of talent in the secondary and at both edge rusher spots, Miller may see less attention from opposing pass protectors than in recent years.
"I just know with me and Chubb out there, especially with all the guys that we have around us, Dre'Mont [Jones] and all these guys on the inside," Miller said. "Kyle Fuller, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, and Bryce Callahan, and just the secondary that we have, we should be able to put up numbers. I don't want to [predict] any numbers. I don't want to jinx myself. I'm at peace with whatever we do, and I know if we can play to the best of our ability, we'll be right up there with all the other great duos around the league."
As you can tell, Miller's trying to keep himself grounded. Being at peace is a way to avoid becoming obsessed or too concerned with numerical goals, to set a standard for your own work and to then let the chips fall where they may without having to force anything.
Instead, Miller's goals are about the intangibles — if he achieves those things, success will follow at all levels.
"I want to be a positive light for my teammates like I always do," Miller said. "I want to watch the way I label things; I want to watch the things that I say around people, because all that stuff grows. I just want to be positive and just be at peace out here. That's really my mindset this year. I'm not thinking about my ankle, I'm not thinking about how many sacks I can get. I just want to go out there, have fun."
So far, the results have appeared evident to onlookers. General Manager George Paton, who had only seen Miller's work on game days, was made into a disciple as he saw his work this offseason.
"[I'm] totally impressed with Von," Paton said. "I've never seen him practice. I just saw him in games and on tape. When you watch him, we all know how athletic he is. He's 32 but he looks 25. Von knows this is a big year for all of us. He's worked hard and he's put in the work. My expectations are very high for him."
Of course, the expectations that may mean most to Miller are not of the individual sort.
"It would mean a lot to me personally," Miller said of potentially making the postseason for the first time since 2015. "Though I think it would mean a lot to everybody. When I sit here and really think about it, it will happen. We have too many talented players. … Of course I want to go to the playoffs, and of course I want to do all of those things. I really do believe this will be the year."