DENVER -- **DeMarcus Ware turned 32 nine days ago. His new team's quarterback turned 38 in the spring.
But even without considering chronology, NFL championship windows can shut as quickly as they open, so there is no time to wait. So why should Ware delay making an impact on the performance and attitude of the defense?
Not for the regular season. Not even for the second preseason game. Even with key defenders like Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Kevin Vickerson still not cleared for game-time work after injuries suffered late in the 2013 season, Ware and the defense had to make a statement.
"The time is now, with the moves that they made during the offseason," Ware said.
Haste mattered. Be aggressive now. Play with ferocity now. Affirm Ware's belief that the defensive changes would create "brutal nasty" … now.
It took all of three snaps into the Broncos' 21-16 preseason-opening win over the Seattle Seahawks.
First, Ware broke inside of Seahawks tight end Zach Miller, forcing running back Robert Turbin into Nate Irving's grasp for a 1-yard gain. On the second play, Ware broke away from Miller, who released for his route, and accelerated toward quarterback Russell Wilson, pressuring him into an incompletion that was nullified by a downfield penalty against T.J. Ward.
Finally, Ware got the spoils on the next snap, breaking from right defensive end. He set up left tackle Alvin Bailey, bounced off left guard Caylin Hauptmann, who came over to help, and spun into Wilson, who was moving to the left.
The defense's first three plays brought massive impact from Ware each time. This is what the Broncos sought. In the parlance of Nuke LaLoosh, Ware brought the heater and announced his presence with authority. The difference is that he did it with the wisdom from nearly a decade in the league, not the impetuousness of youth.
Ware's contribution was apparent, and Head Coach John Fox didn't need to study the game film to see it.. "I haven't seen the tape yet, but I felt his presence," he said.
"I think we came out aggressive. I think that's the perfect word," added Ward. "We were very physical and I think we played pretty well."
Ware didn't play for long; Fox simply "wanted to get his feet wet." But his impact was felt for the balance of the game.
Take a look at photos from the Broncos' preseason matchup against the Seahawks.
From the first unit to the third, the defense attacked. Ward blitzed and notched a sack of Wilson. In the third quarter, Marvin Austin stunted inside of Mitch Unrein and brought down backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Lerentee McCray and defensive ends Quanterus Smith and Kenny Anunike brought pressure -- and these are players who have studied Ware, Von Miller and other veterans to hone their skills and style.
"We have a lot of great depth," said Ware. "But at the end of the day, we can always do better. You want the first guys to be first guys, you want the second guys to be making the first guys better, and all the way down to the third guys."
When the defense made mistakes -- like when Ward committed a face-mask penalty to nullify a fourth-down stop -- they were errors of aggression, not desperate grabs made after being beaten."
"That's football," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "that's how we're going to play, he's aggressive and he ended up getting a sack later in the game. We're going to play fast and physical, and we'll have penalties like that."
Playing on the edge means stepping over the line on occasion. But the Broncos defense doesn't have time to dither over whether they're over the edge or not. If the Broncos are to succeed where they fell short in February, they need a defense that attacks from the outset, pounces at a point of weakness and finishes the job.
From Ware's sack on the third defensive play of the game to Steven Johnson's interception on its last, the Broncos did that. It's only August, but the "brutal nasty" Ware promised five months ago has arrived -- at the first possible moment.