Editor's Note: This cover story ran in the 9/18 Gameday program, when the Broncos faced the Seattle Seahawks.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Safety Mike Adams has just about seen it all.
In his eight seasons in the NFL, he's started games at both strong and free safety and has starting experience as a corner.
But one thing Adams hasn't experienced is postseason football.
"It's something everybody wants to experience," Adams said of the playoffs. "That's why we play this game. We play this game to win. We play this game to win championships and Super Bowls, and not just the players. Going to the playoffs and having that experience -- then the next level is that Super Bowl, man. I want to get that feeling."
Adams was Denver's first acquisition during the free agency period in March. An unrestricted free agent after the 2011 season, when he helped Cleveland limit opponents to the second-fewest passing yards per game in the NFL, Adams said he identified the Broncos as a winner because of what he saw from them last season.
"A playoff team, a playoff-contention team," Adams said. "Even before (signing quarterback Peyton) Manning. They went to the playoffs, and I'm still thinking it's a playoff-caliber team."
Adams started his career as a long shot to make San Francisco's roster when he signed there as an undrafted free agent in 2004 after playing his college ball at Delaware. But he found his way onto the field for eight games as a rookie and intercepted a pass in his first professional season. He followed up his rookie season by making 68 tackles and four interceptions in 2005, and never looked back.
But he still maintains the mental edge forged when he went undrafted back in 2004.
"All the time, I still look back," Adams said. "To this day, I look and I'm like, 'This guy got drafted? Aw man, how did he get drafted and I didn't?' I still think about that stuff. And I think that's part of it. A little bit of that still drives me. Knowing that I played at I-AA and I know I could have played at any other big school. It didn't work out that way, but I'm happy to be a Delaware Blue Hen. And I wouldn't choose any other road. I didn't get drafted. I work hard. Now it just makes me appreciate everything that happens."
With 348 career tackles and 12 interceptions under his belt, Adams is by far the Broncos' most experienced player at safety. Adams said he has enjoyed being able to mentor second-year players Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter.
"I expect myself to be a leader," Adams said. "I don't look at it as though other people should expect me to -- I expect myself to be (a leader). Nine years playing the game, seeing a lot of different defenses and a lot of different offenses, that helps. I'm pretty sure I could benefit the young guys, helping the young guys out."
"It's fun," Adams continued. "When a young guy looks up to you and they're listening to you, and they're making the right calls and doing all the little things that they're coached to do, or that you give them little hints on, and they do it, it's a good feeling."
Adams' efforts to help young people are also evident off the field in his hometown of Patterson, N.J.
"Basically back home there's really nothing to do," Adams said. "You're either getting in trouble, you've got kids joining gangs, you have violence, you have all this other stuff. We don't even have a community center up in Patterson or a basketball court. We don't have any of that. My goal is to eventually get one up. Eventually get something going, get a community center where kids can go and get on the computer, play basketball, stay out of trouble, do things like that."
Adams signed in Denver during the same offseason when future Hall-of-Fame safety Brian Dawkins retired. Though he'll be wearing Dawkins' old number this season, Adams said he's looking to let his play speak for itself.
"No," Adams said of whether he's looking to remind fans of Dawkins and former Broncos safety John Lynch. "Because I'm just me. They've been to Pro Bowls. I've never been to a Pro Bowl. I'm a blue-collar guy. I go out there and I make plays and I play hard. I think the people, the fans of Denver and the organization appreciate that I just play hard, no matter what happens. When a play comes my way, I make plays."
With a lockdown corner like Champ Bailey in front of him and an aggressive defensive coordinator in Jack Del Rio dialing up blitzes, Adams said his job becomes infinitely easier.
"It's a good feeling out there playing with him, a future first ballot Hall of Famer," Adams said of Bailey. "He knows what to do. Sometimes I don't even have to give him a call, I just give him a nod. He already knows. He has seen so much offense as well and it helps because it takes a lot of stress off me. That's one thing that a safety looks for. When the safety and the corner are on the same page, it just jells, man. It's natural."
Adams said he expects playing under Del Rio to present him with plenty of chances to add to his career total of 12 interceptions.
"The secondary loves the pass rush," Adams said. "The secondary dreams of that stuff. When you get the pass rush, it's a beautiful thing. You can break up balls, you can react quicker, you can play flat-footed. There are a lot of different things that you can do once the (guys) up front get after them pretty good. Jack (Del Rio), he has a good reputation for that."
Signing with Denver has meant more than just a change of scenery. Joining a contender has given Adams added motivation this preseason.
"It's definitely a different feeling coming into the season," Adams said. "It's just given me (something) extra."