ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller stares into the mirror he still sees his mindset in 2020, his sack total in 2018 and his rare ability to take over the big moment -- as he did in Super Bowl 50 -- looking back at him.
He wants all of it to be part of his 2021 season after missing 2020 because of ankle surgery.
"That mindset that I created last year is a permanent thing," Miller said. "It wasn't a one-season thing. I felt like last season was going to be the season, but I feel like this season is going to be a great season, too. Just refocus with that same fire and that same intensity and just grind it out. I'm still running around here beating everybody's ass, so I feel like, 30-what? Until I see otherwise, I'm going to keep doing it and I'm going to keep going."
Miller's return for an 11th season with the team that selected him second overall in 2011 was a question mark. He's coming off the ankle injury, turned 32 in March and had some off-the-field issues.
Broncos general manager George Paton said the team monitored a January investigation by Parker (Colorado) police in which Miller had been named. No charges were filed, and the district attorney's office for the 18th Judicial District released a statement in March confirming the case did not meet the standards of probable cause of admissible evidence "to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt" in an investigation "in which there was never a citation, arrest or filing." Neither the police nor the district attorney have said what they were investigating or what charges Miller could have faced.
It came at a time when Miller and the pregnant mother of his son had engaged in heated text exchanges that were subsequently posted on social media. Throughout those weeks and months, Miller had not responded for requests to comment, and up until the district attorney's announcement, Paton had said the Broncos were "going to let the legal process play out'' before making a decision on Miller's future.
Shortly after the announcement there would be no charges, the Broncos engaged a 2021 option in Miller's contract that included a $7 million guarantee on his $18 million base salary. Miller had not publicly addressed any part of the investigation until this past week as the Broncos moved through the first set of organized team activities.
"We wanted to get everything resolved, and hopefully and gratefully, we got everything resolved," Miller said. "Everything is done and we're just focusing on football right now. That's all it is. Everything's resolved and I'm in a great place to really put all that stuff behind me and just focus on football."
Last summer, on the field, Miller looked to be more fit than ever as he roared through training camp. He said at the time, as he was poised to begin his 10th season, he had studied the consistent, day-to-day intensity of athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan to find that edge.
And then he took an awkward step near the end of a practice days before the regular-season opener and missed the remainder of the season. The Broncos, who have hoped to see the impact of Miller and top 2018 draft pick Bradley Chubb together, were robbed of that for a second consecutive season. Chubb, who recently had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs, suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 of 2019, and then Miller missed 2020.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio said he's seen signs Miller is as ready for the upcoming season as he was a year ago before the injury.
"I'll never want to put a ceiling on a guy, especially a guy with his talent and his ability," Fangio said. "I still see a guy that's capable of playing like he was four, five, six years ago. It's going to be up to him to put in the time and effort in the next few months to get his body right. ... You need to do more to maintain that level of play once you start getting into your 30s like he is and playing the position he is. There's no doubt in mind that he can do it."
Miller's last season with double-digit sacks was 2018, when he had 14.5 during Chubb's rookie year. That was also the last year, since 2015, when Miller showed a finishing kick down the stretch. He had 3.5 sacks in December in 2018, but had one sack in December in 2016, 1.5 sacks in December in 2017 and one sack in December in 2019.
Adding to Miller's motivations is his team's lack of success recently against the Kansas City Chiefs. Miller often mentions his personal frustration that the Broncos haven't beaten the Chiefs since Peyton Manning was behind center in September 2015.
"I've got to prove something," Miller said. "It's not to you guys or the GM or anybody like that. It's to myself. I love this game; I want to be a great. [The way others] feel about Kobe and Jordan and the type of guys they were in their sport, I want to do the same thing for my guys and my teammates. The time is now. I've been working hard, I've been grinding. I've been doing everything I possibly can do off the field to be a great player on the field.
"When all of this stuff starts coming together, it'll be great. That's all I think about."