ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- While most of his teammates haven't donned pads since February, Derek Wolfe has been itching to get back on the field in his gear since he was sidelined due to injury in November.
On Saturday, he finally got that opportunity.
With the team now practicing in pads, he is enjoying the opportunity to actually hit people again and on Monday, the team had its first full-tackle drill. He said football is "absolutely" fun again and that he is not thinking about last year anymore.
While he is back on the field and making plays, including helping the first team unit prevent conversions on two out of three chances in short yardage drills on Monday, he is also involved in some of the scuffles on the field.
That's the kind of intensity he played with before his injury last season and he appears to be back in his old form.
"It's the dog days," Wolfe said. "You get out here, people get frustrated, it's hot, people are tired. Some people are on the bubble so they're really pushing it and another guy might not be going as hard so they end up getting in a fight, and if one guy on the defense is in a fight, the whole defense is in a fight. That's just how we are."
Throughout camp, Wolfe has consistently created pressure off the edge and done a solid job keeping Peyton Manning and Montee Ball contained. The player whose 2013 season was spoiled by a neck injury and the complications following that injury appears to be nonexistent.
Wolfe lost a significant amount of weight during his time away from the field. He said weighed as little as 258 pounds at one point and noted that the last time his weight was that low was his sophomore year of high school.
He gained a substantial amount of it back by OTAs. During camp, he looks healthier and stronger than ever. The way he looks mirrors how he feels out on the field with his teammates.
"Yeah I feel the best I've ever felt, probably in my life," Wolfe said. "Really strong mentally, really strong physically, my size is back up, my weight's like 295. So I feel great. I'm ready to go."
He is starting to get used to his pads again and, even though he is being careful to not injure his teammates, he loves how competitive it is on the field. He says "on the field it's war."
"Obviously we've got to take care of each other, but when you get to tackle the running back actually – because there's always questions, did he run through, would he have broken the tackle? Now we really get to see if he broke the tackle," he said.
While there is competition, and depth, on the defensive line, Wolfe feels like he is good enough to start. But, he embraces the competition at defensive end said it will make him and the rest of the line better.
On Saturday, Head Coach John Fox said Wolfe has no physical hesitation since his injury from last season.
"The kid loves to play football and he loves coming to this building," Fox said. "It's a big part of his life and I respect that. I like the way he has come back."
Wolfe felt that the game was almost taken away from him last season. His appreciation for the opportunity to play has reached new heights, especially when he finally got the opportunity to play at Sports Authority Field again on Sunday.
For now, he is enjoying the defense's energy and thriving in the competitive environment.
"It's me versus you and there's only a couple inches between us, so we've got to get it done," he said.