ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **From injury to suspension to an arrest, 2013 was a nightmare for Von Miller. It's doubtful that any other player in the league was more thankful to turn ahead to the new year than he was, after his reputation was dented on and off the field.
Even as he continues his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Miller has a fresh start. He's already taken part in individual drills. He has a new appreciation for the daily grind of coming to team headquarters, admitting, "It's just different now."
But the Broncos' decision to exercise the fifth-year option on Miller's contract was an affirmation of their thoughts on Miller. The issuance of it was the most concrete example of the Broncos' faith in Miller to return to form on the field, and mature off it.
Miller got the message.
"It definitely makes me feel good knowing that the organization is behind me and they trust me and they believe in me, especially through all the stuff that I've been through," he said.
"It makes me want to go out there even more to prove to those guys -- not anything on the field -- but prove to those guys that I'm the guy that they can trust and I'm the guy that they can believe in."
The arrival of DeMarcus Ware also helps Miller on and off the field. When Ware signed in March, he spoke about being a mentor to Miller, since the two became acquainted in 2011, Miller's rookie year.
"I think the main thing is having somebody that's here that's real for him. And I've been that," Ware said then. "(I'm) also a guy that he's looked up to, and a guy that at the end of the day, you can go in the trenches with, and that you can trust. So I'm that guy for him."
Those words were just the beginning. Miller and Ware work together watching tape, studying and analyzing each other's work.
"He's just one of those special guys," Miller said. "It's like DeMarcus already knows what I'm asking before I even ask it. I walk up to him and he's like psychic. He already knows what I'm going to ask him when we start talking. He just explains it so well.
"He's a great teacher and it's different from any other relationship that I've had with anyone else. I've looked up to DeMarcus. I'm not afraid to say it, I want to be like DeMarcus ware. He's had a consistent career. To have the guy in the locker room every single day and to be able to see him, it's a true blessing."
Ware's presence will help Miller as a pass rusher, since the 10-year veteran is likely to draw attention from opposing blocking schemes and give a bit more freedom to Miller than he had last year, when he did not have Elvis Dumervil playing opposite him.
But of equal importance -- and perhaps greater for the long term -- is what Ware can show Miller about leadership, an area in which Miller wants to grow.
"You know, I want to be that guy and I want to show it on the field. Not only on the field, but coaching up the young guys and show them that I can be here and I'm going to be here for a long time," he said.
The first sign visible to onlookers is in the counsel he's offered to Lerentee McCray during practice. McCray, who spent last year on injured reserve, is among the players who is competing to be Miller's backup at strong-side linebacker and nickel pass rusher.
"At this point in my career, I've seen everything in the league. If I can help Lerentee be just one percent better then I did my job," he said. "There's just stuff that I've seen that he hasn't seen yet. It's just all new to him and for me I've seen before.
"So if I could just rub off on him a little bit and make stuff a lot easier for him to help me. Then I'm doing my job because I'm contributing."
It's not that this is a new Von Miller in No. 58. But with increasing maturity, a loss of some weight he put on last year, the presence of Ware to help and an embrace of greater responsibility, this Miller should be better for the long haul -- and in better position to be a franchise linchpin.