By Arnie Stapleton, AP Pro Football writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Peyton Manning called it Von Miller’s “world celebrity tour,” a five-month jet-setting junket of television and dance studios, A-list parties and B-roll appearances.
Although the Broncos are being cautious with the Super Bowl MVP who skipped the offseason program in a contract clash, Miller clearly found time to keep in shape in between all those hours in the skies and on the air.
He was so good in his first 9-on-7 action of training camp over the weekend — blowing up three of four running plays — that the coaches pulled him off the field so they could get some work done on offense.
“He looked like he wore a couple people out, I know that,” coach Gary Kubiak said afterward. “We put a tackle at tight end to try to make it an even match, but it still didn’t work out. He looks good. He ought to be up to about full speed here in about three more days.”
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips issued this update Monday:
“He’s ready to go.”
Miller said that despite his hanging out with talk show hosts and dancing with the stars, he “never really got away from football,” in the offseason, keeping up with his rigorous training regimen.
As any football coach will tell you, being in physical shape and “football” shape are two different things. They wonder if guys did proper warm-ups and cool-downs, stretches and plyometrics or just lots of weightlifting and wind sprints when they were working out on their own.
Miller clearly did all that.
After showing cornerback Chris Harris Jr. some of his new dance moves Monday, Miller was jogging off the field with a strength and conditioning coach when he stepped in front of kicker Brandon McManus and attempted a 45-yard field goal on the side field.
He hit it hard, but on a straight line and nowhere near the goal posts.
It’s about the only thing Miller has flubbed since his extraordinary playoff run that he capped with two sack-strips of Cam Newton in Denver’s 24-10 win over Carolina in the Super Bowl.
Those same teams kick off the new season Sept. 8, and Miller’s already excited.
“I mean, that’s what everybody wants to see, right?” he said, smiling. “It’s going to be a great matchup.”
With Manning’s retirement, Miller is now the face of Denver’s franchise, something that was only solidified when he signed his six-year, $114.5 million deal with $70 million guaranteed, making him the league’s highest-paid nonquarterback.
The expectations, like his bank account, have only risen, something that needs no pointing out to Miller.
“He already knows that,” Phillips said. “That’s why he is the highest-paid guy because he plays like that. So, we expect him to maintain that. But his attitude is great.”
So is his conditioning, his form and even his play in his cameos so far.
Miller said he has a different mind-set his year: “For one, I’m going to be here. I don’t have to worry about that and it’s just football.”
Miller showed last year what he could do with a clear mind and slate.
During training camp last season, the NFL gave Miller a way out of its drug program after he stayed clean for two years. Without the threat of a yearlong suspension looming over him should he slip up and even miss a drug test, Denver’s loquacious linebacker was free to be himself again, haunting linemen, hammering quarterbacks and loosening the locker room with his cutup personality and childlike cheer.
Unlike most of his fellow draftees in the talent-laden 2011 NFL draft, however, Miller didn’t get an extension. Instead, the Broncos exercised their fifth-year option in a prove-it challenge to him.
This year, his contract situation isn’t hanging over him, so he’s expecting even bigger things.
“That’s when you can be at your best, when it’s all football, when you’re just thinking about your teammates and the play and your assignment,” Miller said. “And that’s where it is for me right now, it’s just football, trying to be the best player I can be for my teammates, trying to be the best leader that I can be for this organization.”