ENGLEWOOD | Von Miller’s devastating ankle injury six days before Denver’s season opener against Tennessee was especially gut-wrenching for Brandon McManus.
They’ve been Broncos BFFs since 2015, this mild-mannered kicker from Pennsylvania and the gregarious superstar linebacker from Dallas.
That was the year they helped lead the Broncos on a Super Bowl run, with McManus hitting all 10 of his field goals in the playoffs and Miller destroying game plans and sweeping past tackles trying to keep him off of the quarterback.
Just like he did that year, Miller had a terrific training camp this summer.
Inspired by Kobe Bryant’s legacy, Michael Jordan’s documentary and his own bout with the COVID-19, Miller reshaped his body at age 31 and dedicated himself to reclaiming his status as the league’s premier pass rusher.
A buff Miller looked as if he had been training for a heavyweight fight and appeared primed for a big year after a camp in which he was routinely removed from drills after a single snap for fear he’d wreck the workouts.
Then, Miller took a misstep on the final play at an indoor practice Tuesday and everything changed.
He underwent surgery Friday to fix a dislodged tendon in his left foot.
Miller is looking at months of rehab instead of the monster season that he and so many others were expecting.
“It’s super tough,” McManus told The Associated Press. “Everybody knows how hard Von’s been training all offseason, but I knew better than anyone. I was FaceTiming with him when he was out in San Francisco, then in Dallas training and then here in Denver, as well. So, I knew even more the depth that he’s gone into to prime himself for a great year.”
McManus said he and Miller talked about how if he had gotten hurt in the opener, at least he would have experienced playing with his newfound physique and psyche.
“Even if he got to play three quarters of the first game, just for him to feel like what his body was like for all this work it would have been great,” McManus said.
McManus said Miller is already talking about putting that same effort and energy into his rehab for a comeback like Bryant and Jordan did on the basketball court in their day.
“After he got over feeling sorry for himself, he had that opportunity to watch these players who had great comebacks from injuries and that’s what he’s primed to do, and I know that he’ll do that,” McManus said.
At best, Miller returns after three months. At worst, he never plays in Denver again.
He’s due $18 million next season, the final year of the six-year, $114.1 million deal that he signed after winning Super Bowl 50 MVP honors. Should they part ways in 2021, the Broncos would only take a $4,225,000 salary cap hit.
McManus is bummed he won’t have Miller with him on game days this fall.
“As a friend, obviously it was upsetting just because I love to have him on the field all the times and during games we get to chat and stuff at certain times and I love watching him play,” McManus said. “Obviously, my position is not as exciting to watch but I truly love watching him play out there, so I’ll miss that.”
Miller feels the same way about McManus.
“I just picture us with gray hair, out of shape, sitting on the porch somewhere, watching our grandkids play,” Miller has said about his odd-couple friendship with McManus. “That’s just B-Mac and I. I can’t even really remember like the official start of it or anything, but now we have that bond, his family, my family.”
McManus said their friendship began in the 2015 offseason.
“I’d say it blossomed quickly,” McManus said. “It was like a fast-growing plant. It just needed to be watered a little bit.”
“It’s just been awesome to get to know him and his parents over the years and my dad and his dad have become great friends over the years,” McManus added. “So, it’s become a great friendship that I know will continue until we get older together. He’s been a true great friend. He’s the godfather to my second twin. He was the No. 2 draft pick in 2011, so I gave him the second pick, the second baby.”
One of the few outward things Miller and McManus have in common is their competitive fire.
“We both want to be the most successful athlete ever at our positions,” McManus said. “I love being a successful athlete in anything I do and Von’s super competitive as well. He says in interviews all the time he’s mad that I’m good at everything. But that’s just my competitive nature.”
“I never want to be looked at as a kicker and I never act like a kicker because that’s not my personality,” added McManus, who signed a four-year, $17.2 million extension Friday night. “It’s just something that I found that I could be really good at and be successful at and play professionally.”
NOTES: Coach Vic Fangio said OLB Bradley Chubb (knee) will play Monday night. He’s optimistic WR Courtland Sutton (shoulder) will, too, but “he’s got to pass the most primitive test there is — he’s got to be able to do 10 jumping jacks.” WR K.J. Hamler (hamstring) is questionable and ILB Mark Barron (hamstring) is out.