ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –During linebacker Von Miller's six-game suspension, he wasn't able to practice with the team.
But he was allowed to use the team's weight room and it sure seems like he took advantage of that.
"Best shape of my life," Miller said. "I feel a lot stronger, quicker and faster."
Head Coach John Fox noticed how Miller's work in the weight room paid off as soon as he stepped back on the practice field on Wednesday.
"He spent a lot of time with our strength and conditioning people so strength-wise he's in outstanding shape," Fox said. "Obviously he's fresh, as this is his opening game of the season. Everybody's got little bumps and bruises they deal with, but so far so good. I've liked what I've seen."
Miller reported to training camp at 245 pounds and since then has put on an additional 16 pounds – 15 of them muscle.
Once his suspension began, Miller made the weight room a second home, training with Strength and Conditioning Coach Luke Richesson and his assistants Jason George, Anthony Lomando and Mike Eubanks.
"My personal trainer was Luke Richesson," Miller said. "Hopefully I can see him every day. We
had a lot of one-on-one time and we still have one-on-one time, not just lifting weights, but nutritionally, too. He was a huge catalyst in me getting my body in this type of shape. So hats off to Luke for pushing me."
That time in the weight room didn't just add bulk. It helped create a bigger, stronger and faster linebacker.
To go with his 15 pounds of added muscle, Miller dropped half a percent of body fat.
That means this week the Broncos defense is not just getting back the runner-up for the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Award – it is getting back an improved version of that player.
And the improvement isn't just physical.
Miller was also allowed to be in team meetings and linebacker Wesley Woodyard said he noticed his teammate taking notes and preparing each week as if he were going to play.
"I've been paying attention in meetings," Miller said. "I wanted to make sure when I came back that I wasn't a step behind. If anything, I was prepared. I'd done conditioning, I'd worked out, I'd done everything possible to get myself ready for practice and the games."
The added muscle didn't come easy. It came through hours of hard work with Richesson and his staff.
Since his suspension began at the end of August, Miller amassed more than 75 hours in the weight room to go along with all his time spent studying his playbook and in meetings.
"I feel stronger just all around -- mentally, physically, just all around," Miller said. "When you don't have to worry about everything, it's just football, it's a whole lot easier just studying and everything. I just feel good. It's like I've said before, I'm in a great place physically and mentally."