Good morning, Broncos Country!
When Vance Joseph unveiled the “Accountability” mantra for the Broncos this offseason, I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled. It felt a little “too late” and, therefore, a little too insincere — and a little, or occasionally a lot, of cynicism encroached on my usual optimism.
But after listening to Derek Wolfe talk with the guys at Orange and Blue Radio on Tuesday, I admit...I am a true believer.
Wolfe’s contagious excitement about this upcoming season — and about the offseason work so far — has me channeling my best Annie Savoy as I get ready for the “Church of Football” to bring me salvation once again.
“These were the best OTAs since I’ve been here,” Wolfe said, adding that in his seven years in the pros, these were the best as far as team chemistry. “We’re starting to love each other again. It’s not every guy for himself. We’re like, ‘hey, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it for each other.’ And we’re coming together; it’s looking all right.”
Steve Atwater (love him!) asked Wolfe what the team is doing to make sure what happened last year doesn’t happen again, and Wolfe had a quick and simple answer:
“You can’t point the finger.”
So Atwater asked if that was in fact happening last year.
“Of course it was,” Wolfe acknowledged, speaking primarily for the defense. “You know the defense was carrying a lot of weight, and we were getting a big head about it — saying ‘the offense ain’t doing this or ain’t doing that, turning the ball over’ — and so we started doing that a little bit because we were getting tired of being on the field all the time.
“But that’s no excuse,” Wolfe added. “We’re here to do a job. And when the defense is ready to go out there, it’s time to go out there. There’s none of that [pointing fingers] anymore.”
When Ryan Edwards highlighted the 50-point loss to the Eagles, Wolfe again took onus for the defense. No matter what the offense might have done or not done, he said, the defense should never have allowed Eagles’ running back Jay Ajayai to bust out a 77-yard touchdown run against them.
“I was just embarrassed. We were a top five defense and we let someone score 50 points on us,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many turnovers there were. It doesn’t matter. ...No matter what, stick to your guns and be the defense everyone expects you to be.”
Preach, Brother Derek!
Wolfe admitted straight up that last season was no fun — both on the field and in the locker room. But that 5-11 experience has given players a new motivation to work on winning together.
“When you lose like that and go through that kind of adversity, it really brings out the kind of character you have as a team,” Wolfe said, adding that Broncos players are refusing to accept that level of play this year. “I think it showed what kind of character we had because nobody is accepting [being losers]. That happens at other places with a losing culture. It’s easy to just be a loser. It’s hard to make a real change and change your attitude and change the way you’re doing things.”
Lawd, have mercy!
One big change this offseason has Wolfe particularly optimistic — the quarterback.
“We’ve got a great leader on the other side of the ball in Case [Keenum],” the defensive end said. “And that’s the way it’s gotta be. It has to be the quarterback. It can’t be anybody else.”
And in addition to Case Keenum, Wolfe is really excited about the rookies.
“The new guys fit in great. Bradley [Chubb] is doing such a good job as a rookie. He’s not letting his head get too big. Being the fifth overall pick can sometimes get to your head and make you think you’re great the moment you step out there. But [Chubb] wants to be great, so he’s trying everything he can, asking everybody questions, putting in that work. Showing people that you want it is how you earn respect.”
Can I get an Amen?
Well, I know I can get one from Wolfe who is also feeling better than ever after having neck surgery to remove a bone growth that was hitting his nerve and causing chronic pain.
“No B.S. I feel the best I’ve felt in 5-6 years,” Wolfe said, adding he was in so much pain all the time. “I needed to get the bone out, get the stem cells in there...I feel really good. I feel like a 23-year-old again.”