ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --When Elvis Dumervil joined his teammates for offseason conditioning on May 7, he said one thing in particular stood out for him -- he's healthy.
"Last year I was coming back from injury -- you kind of hesitate, you don't know, you're nervous it's going to happen again," he said at the time. "Now it's a clear mind. Just work hard, get better."
On Wednesday, Dumervil echoed that sentiment.
His ankle has healed from last season and he thanked Strength and Conditioning Coach Luke Richesson for helping him get stronger in the process.
In order to stay healthy, Dumervil said he's slimmed down to about 250 pounds and is "more in shape."
"Last year, coming off the injury a year before, I felt a little rusty," he said. "I had little nicks early in the season and I thought I gained too much weight maybe in a short period of time. I just kind of wanted to get back to what I'm used to. I feel good at 250 -- my strength is there, my conditioning is there and it's all about having that endurance throughout the game."
To get to that weight, Dumervil said he's utilized a full-time chef and nutritionist. He's been drinking more fruit juices -- mentioning the benefits of antioxidants -- and eating more natural, non-processed food.
He calls it "premium fuel" for his body.
"It's these things that are allowing me to become more of a professional and take my game to the next level," he said. "So, whatever I have to do and invest in myself, I have to do so."
Is the two-time Pro Bowler concerned that a little weight loss will mean he gets pushed around in the trenches?
"No, I'm not worried about that," he smiled. "I'm going to bring it."
In 2012, Dumervil is ready not only to build on his 9.5-sack season last year, but he's prepared to step into more of a leadership role on the defense as one of the longest-tenured Broncos on that side of the ball.
"I was very fortunate coming into the situation I had with Al Wilson, Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins -- I was able to learn," he said. "Before you can lead, you have to know how to follow. So, I've been following for quite a bit. It's a role I have to embrace and we're looking forward to that."
As he said when he first got back to Dove Valley this offseason, Dumervil maintained Wednesday that he has lofty expectations for the Broncos in 2012.
"It's a big year for us as an organization," he said. "We're going for the 'ship."
MAKING A LEAP
In 2011, Von Miller earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after an 11.5-sack year.
"Von had a superb season," Head Coach John Fox said at A Night With the Coaches. "I think he would've shattered all the rookie records had he not torn that tendon in his thumb. Really he played one-armed and one-handed the remainder of the season. I thought he had a great rookie season. I think he'll build on that. The type of young man he is, he's very humble, he's a great teammate and a guy that's not afraid to work. He looks great. We've had the opportunity to see him on the practice field — his thumb's fine. He'll be a great, great player for years to come."
Along the same lines as the high praise from his coach, Miller said Wednesday that he hopes to make a significant jump into his sophomore season.
"I'm not a rookie anymore," he said. "I want to start to play like a vet."
In order to do that, Miller said, he wants to cut down on mental errors he made as a rookie. He wants to eliminate false steps by being absolutely sure of each play and each formation before the ball is snapped.
And he believes his work this offseason is helping him head in that direction while adjusting to a new scheme under Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio.
"I think I've come along at the pace that I should be," he said. "With a coach like (Linebackers) Coach (Richard) Smith, I don't think he'll let me get too far off track. It's a new scheme, new plays, new everything, but I think I'm coming along well."
Miller said that consistency is what makes a good NFL player. Of course, many believe Miller is already a good NFL player, as he is expected to make NFL Network's The Top 100: Players of 2012 -- which was voted on by his peers -- and on Wednesday, it was announced that he will be honored as the Colorado Athlete of the Year by the Denver Athletic Club.
"It just shows the type of teammates and the type of team and the type of season that we had last year," Miller said of the award. "I certainly couldn't have done it by myself. Coach Smith, he had a huge part in helping me come a long as a linebacker and as a football player. Whenever you get individual accolades, there's always an outside catalyst that made that happen – my teammates and Coach Smith."
Dumervil, for one, is excited to see what Miller can do in year two.
"I can't wait," the defensive end said. "I can't wait to see the kind of jump he can (make). He came in last year with a lot of pressure being a No. 2 pick. Obviously we all know he was a rookie of the year defensive-wise and he's been working his butt off. We're looking forward to him having a really good year for us."
THOMAS LEARNS FROM PRO BOWLERS
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green and Detroit wide receiver -- and former college teammate -- Calvin Johnson were part of the group of players in a session Thomas called valuable.
"Just to get somebody to throw you the ball that's in the league and run some routes and learn some new things that you haven't had in your game helped me out a lot," he said.
Thomas said that he learned some things in regards to developing his route-running that has helped him "feel very comfortable" and confident entering 2012.
Johnson in particular was a big help.
"The main thing he told me is just to go out and work hard," Thomas said. "He sees me run a route and he'll tell me what I'm doing wrong and just correct it."
Dumervil agreed with defensive tackle Justin Bannan's thoughts from Tuesday, when he said there's only so much pass-rushing the defensive line can do during OTAs -- they have to avoid hitting the quarterback.
But that hasn't stopped Dumervil from gaining valuable experience with Peyton Manning across the line.
"There are a couple of things that Peyton brings to the table," he said. "For me personally, I'm going to rush the way I rush. You have to be smart and take care of your quarterback and your teammates, but me as a rusher, I have to rush the way I rush. That's my mentality. The way Peyton sets up in the pocket is different. He doesn't set up too deep, so it doesn't give you a good chance of getting there. Having him in practice teaches and allows me to get accustomed to the more difficult quarterbacks (to sack), like the Tom Bradys, Aaron Rodgers – the guys who stay in the pocket. When you have a quarterback that drives more than six or seven yards, that's a sack. But Peyton, he really doesn't give you that kind of opportunity. Practicing against that helps your rush, so now you have to get your count and your chess-match moves and setup game. I think that helps the D-line."