ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Bradley Chubb approaches surgery and rehab for his injured ACL, he can take solace in the fact that his teammate has been through the same process.
Von Miller suffered the same injury during a Week 16 game against the Texans in 2013, and he missed the Broncos’ ensuing run to Super Bowl XLVIII.
And during Miller’s recovery process, he found out the most difficult part was the seemingly endless amount time it takes to return to game action.
“The first six months are like [you do] nothing,” Miller said Thursday. “He can’t really do anything. He posted yesterday, ‘I’ve never been so bored in my life.’ That’s just part of it. You’re not out here in the practice field. You’re not in the film rooms. You’re just trying to get back right. For me, I watched a lot of movies. I got caught up on all the old movies. I watched all of 'Star Wars.' I watched all of 'The Matrix,' all the movies. I read a couple of books. I read 'Lone Survivor' and 'End of Secrets.' I tried to just find some type of motivation through others that had to overcome some deal of adversity.”
The challenge, though, is one nearly every elite athlete has had to face. Miller did his best to explain that to Chubb in the aftermath of the injury.
“It was tough,” Miller said. “I told Bradley, every great player in the history of the league has had some type of adversity or some type of big-time injury that they had to overcome. You look at [Patriots QB] Tom Brady, [former Broncos OLB] DeMarcus Ware, [former Broncos QB] Peyton Manning. That’s just a small list of them. You’re going to have to overcome some adversity like that. He got his early. I got mine early as well. He’ll overcome it. He’s a machine. He’ll overcome it. He’ll be all right.”
A good sign for Chubb? Miller returned in 2014 to record 14 sacks, the third-highest total of his career.
“At that point you can’t really dwell in the past,” Miller said. “It’s funny once you overcome stuff like that you can’t really just [dwell on it] — internally you feel good about it, but football is what are you going to do next, what are you going to do next, what are you going to do next? Whenever I had sacks out there, I just felt good to be able to sack the quarterback again. I wasn’t worried about what I’m going to do next.”
As Miller looks for his next sack, outside linebacker Malik Reed could be one of the players to line up across the defense. And as Miller has watched Reed grow as a player, he’s seen similarities to a former Broncos pass rusher.
“Malik is ready to go, and I often talk about Shaq (Buccaneers OLB Shaquil Barrett) like, ‘Hey, Malik, you can be that too. You can have that type of success too,’” Miller said. “Shaq was here. Shaq played behind us just like Malik is doing now. With Malik, I point to Exhibit A with Shaq all the time.”
Barrett leads the NFL with nine sacks and also has three forced fumbles and an interception on the season. In his five years in Denver, he recorded 14 career sacks — including four in 2017 when he started nine games for the Broncos.
Barrett then gave way to Chubb, whom the Broncos drafted in 2018.
And though he’ll be out for the remainder of the season, the advice he got from Miller has him looking ahead to the 2020 season.
“Von was like the fourth person I called after my parents and my brother,” Chubb said Tuesday. “I called Von to let him know that I was probably going to be down for the year, just because I knew he went through the same thing in 2013. His main message to me [was] it’s going to make you a better person, a better pro. Like I said, I’m happy this actually happened to me because I feel like in life, I was getting a little too complacent. With 12 sacks as a rookie, it’s kind of hard to keep that same grind, get that same thing so I’m really happy that this happened to me because it’s a humbling experience. It’s going to get me back to that same guy that was hungry to get college offers, that same guy that was hungry to go out there and prove everybody wrong. I’m glad to be back in that same position.
“Von was just telling me that this injury is going to help you get to that same position so I’m excited for it.”