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Denver Broncos LB Von Miller ‘at peace’ if this is final year with team

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller reported for his 11th campaign Tuesday, and while he has always hoped to be a “Bronco for life,” he says as he enters the last year of his contract that he wants to play several more years and is “at peace” if that is eventually somewhere else.

“I would like to keep playing. Whether that’s here with the Denver Broncos or somewhere else, I’m totally at peace with that,” Miller stated as the Broncos’ veteran players reported Tuesday for training camp. “I want to play five to seven more years, I think I said that a couple weeks ago.”

Miller, who was the Broncos’ first-round pick in the 2011 draft, is the team’s longest-tenured player. The Broncos engaged his contract option for the 2021 season in March, the last year of the six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed in 2016 several months after he had been named MVP of Super Bowl 50.

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He turned 32 in March, is about to be a father and said he wants to keep playing so his future son will be able to see him play.

But after worrying about his future for most of the summer of 2020, Miller said he’s taking a calmer approach this time around, even as he hopes to finish his career with the Broncos.

“I’m not really thinking about this is the last year of my contract, [or] will I be with the Broncos,” Miller said. “Last year, to be honest, that was really on my soul. I really wanted, I really wanted — of course I want to be here. I want to stay here for the rest of my career, but getting past that is kind of a release for me.”

Miller had powered through a bevy of offseason workouts in 2020 in hopes of leaving his eight-sack season in 2019 behind and helping end the current Broncos playoff drought, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury days before the season opener and did not play in a game. His eight-sack total in ’19 was the lowest since 2013, when he had five.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has already predicted Miller is again poised to have a big year in 2021, and general manager George Paton said picking up Miller’s option was an easy decision. “We wanted Von to be a Bronco … he’s going to have a Pro Bowl-type season,” Paton said earlier this year.

“Sitting out last year, it really helped me be at peace,” Miller said Tuesday. “Being at peace and being content, they are two totally different things. I feel like you can be at peace with whatever happens, but you still want to go out there and lead the league in sacks, you still want to get Defensive Player of the Year, still want to get all this crazy stuff, but I’m at peace with whatever happens.”

With 106 sacks in 135 career matches, Miller is the Broncos’ all-time sack leader, and he enters the 2021 season as the league’s active sack leader, five ahead of J.J. Watt.

Since Miller missed the 2020 season and Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb missed most of the 2019 season with a knee injury, Miller has plenty of optimism for what the two may be able to do together in the defense this year. Chubb was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.

And in the 20 games Miller and Chubb have played together, they have combined for 29.5 sacks.

“He looks ready to go, I’m ready to go, this might be the one … I’m excited to see the things me and Bradley can do,” Miller said. “I feel great … I’m still running the same, still lifting the same as those guys. …” Miller added later.

“I’m hoping to play another five to seven years, maybe even more. I don’t want to put a number on it — if it’s less, it’s less. I’m at peace I’ve played in the league long enough. I’ve been in the league 11 years, so every single year after this is just a true blessing. I want to play a long time.”

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Shohei Ohtani lead way for All-Star Game starters

Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. are heading to their first All-Star Game — as starters.

The three headline stars of 2021 dominated the second phase of fan voting at their respective positions to earn starting spots for the 91st All-Star Game programmed for July 13 at Coors Field in Denver.

Guerrero and Tatis were the leading vote-getters in each league, while Ohtani finished with the second-highest percentage in the American League.

Ohtani, voted in as the AL’s designated hitter, has thrilled fans all season with his two-way performance, long home runs and electrifying speed on the bases. He leads the majors with 28 home runs, including an MLB-leading 12 of 425 feet or longer.

He’s hitting .277, leads the majors with 49 extra-base hits and ranks third in the majors with 63 RBIs. Ohtani is also tied for the AL lead with four triples and has stolen 11 bases.

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While Ohtani had a disastrous start pitching Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium when he failed to finish the first inning, he is still 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA, 83 strikeouts and a .194 batting average allowed over 60 innings. Not since Babe Ruth in 1919, and briefly with Ohtani in 2018 before he underwent Tommy John surgery, has the sport seen such a dominant two-way player.

“He’s a joy for this,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after Ohtani hit two home runs on Tuesday. “He’s what baseball needs as both a player and as an example.”

Ohtani was on fire at the plate in June, hitting .309 with 13 home runs, including 11 homers in 13 games from June 15 to June 29.

“He’s a generational talent, that’s for sure,” said fellow All-Star starter Aaron Judge of the Yankees.

Ohtani has also committed to participate in the Home Run Derby on July 12, with Pete Alonso of the Mets defending his title.

The runner-up in the Home Run Derby as a rookie in 2019, Guerrero makes his first All-Star team after securing 75% of the vote among the three AL finalists at first base. The 22-year-old is in pursuit of a Triple Crown, leading the AL with 66 RBIs, ranking second to Ohtani with 26 home runs and trailing Michael Brantley in batting average, .340 to .336.

He gets to his first All-Star Game two years earlier than his Hall of Fame father did, as Vladimir Guerrero Sr. made the first of his nine All-Star appearances at age 24.

Tatis has had a roller coaster of a campaign, missing nine matches early on after partially dislocating a shoulder on a swing on April 5, hitting .163 through his first 12 games and then later missing another 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. When he has played, however, he has crushed the ball, leading the National League with 26 home runs in just 63 games while hitting .300/.387/.705 for an MLB-leading 1.092 OPS.

Tatis beat out Javier Baez of the Cubs and Brandon Crawford of the Giants at shortstop with 64% of the vote, matching Guerrero as a first-time All-Star at 22. After an initial round of fan voting, the top three at each position entered the second phase.

Ohtani beat out J.D. Martinez and Yordan Alvarez at designated hitter with 64% of the vote, while Guerrero outdistanced Yuli Gurriel and Jose Abreu with 75%.

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Four-time Pro Bowl receiver Demaryius Thomas retiring from NFL as a Bronco

Demaryius Thomas announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday in a typically understated fashion for the four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Quiet off the field, driven to succeed on it, Thomas — known as “D.T.” to most everyone associated with the Denver Broncos — simply sat down for a short video and opened with:

“I’m Demaryius Thomas. I finally came to a decision to hang it up … I’m going to retire and I’m going to retire a Denver Bronco … I’m done and I did well.”

Thomas, 33, will be honored by the Broncos during their home opener on Sept. 26 versus the New York Jets, the team he concluded his career with in 2019.

Thomas was the first of two first-round picks for the Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft — Tim Tebow was the other — and spent nine seasons with the Broncos and finishes his career as the team’s second-leading receiver (9,055 yards), behind only Rod Smith. He is third in franchise history in catches (655) behind Smith and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. He played in 10 seasons overall and finished with 724 catches for 9,763 yards to go with 63 touchdowns.

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“D.T. was the complete package as a wide receiver, growing into one of the very best at his position,” Broncos president of football operations John Elway said in a statement announcing the news.

“The combination of his size, speed, strength and athleticism was unmatched. Demaryius’ remarkable consistency and production were instrumental in our offense setting historic records and our team winning a lot of games, including two AFC Championships and Super Bowl 50.”

Thomas had a foot injury — he had been injured working out before the 2010 draft — in his first two seasons in the NFL, but flourished when healthy and with the arrival of Peyton Manning in 2012. Between 2012 and 2015, Thomas had at least 90 receptions and 1,300 yards in four straight seasons, joining Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice and Rams legend Torry Holt as the only players to reach those totals over four consecutive campaigns.

In the Broncos’ record-setting season in 2013 — Manning set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) as the Broncos scored a league-record 606 points that year — Thomas finished with a career-best 14 touchdowns. The following season he concluded with a career-best 1,619 yards receiving.

Thomas routinely said Manning revealed parts of the game that enabled Thomas to elevate his play.

Manning had called Thomas one of the best receivers he had played with in his career. When Manning’s children would come to practices, Thomas was routinely the first player they would run to as the players had become close friends.

Thomas caught Manning’s 509th career touchdown pass, which gave Manning the career record at the time. A picture of Manning and Thomas posing with a handwritten sign after the game has been on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For many among the team’s faithful, Thomas’ signature play is the catch-and-run 80-yard touchdown, on a short pass from Tebow, in the first play of overtime to give the Broncos a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC wild-card game following the 2011 season.

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Nuggets eliminate Trail Blazers in Game 6 with 126-115 win

Nikola Jokic had 36 points and the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in six matches with a 126-115 triumph Thursday night.

Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points, including 22 in the opening quarter, for the third-seeded Nuggets. They await the outcome of the first-round series between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.

Denver advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the third consecutive season.

Damian Lillard finished with 28 points and 13 assists for the sixth-seeded Blazers. They led by 14 points in the third quarter but couldn’t stave off elimination. Monte Morris hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close Denver to 101-98 heading into the last period. Jokic hit a 3-pointer to put Denver ahead 108-106 and Denver stretched it to 117-108 on Austin Rivers’ 3 with 3:52 left.

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Portland tired to catch up, getting to 121-115 on CJ McCollum’s layup, but Aaron Gordon hit a 3-pointer that all but sealed it for Denver with less than a minute to go.

The Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 147-140 double overtime victory in Denver on Tuesday night.

It spoiled Lillard’s epic playoff performance: He had 55 points, including 12 3-pointers, and 10 assists. It was the most 3-pointers ever in a playoff game.

The Blazers needed big man Jusuf Nurkic to stay out of foul trouble. Tasked with defending Jokic, he fouled out in three of the first five matches.

Nurkic didn’t have a foul in the first half, but then had four quick fouls in the third quarter and had to head to the bench.

Porter had six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, tying an NBA playoff record for most 3s a quarter. Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 68-61 lead at the half. He raised his arms to encourage the crowd as he headed off the floor.

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New England Patriots’ Cam Newton to rejoin team after covid-19

The New England Patriots activated quarterback Cam Newton from the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list on Wednesday.

Newton is likely to practice with the team on Thursday, which likely would lead to his starting on Sunday versus Denver.

New England was 2-1 with Newton as its starter, then lost at Kansas City when he was sidelined after testing positive for the coronavirus. Newton had tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 2.

Three Patriots remain on the COVID-19 reserve list: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive tackle Byron Cowart and practice squad DT Bill Murray. Gilmore was the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

New England players say they have found an ally in coach Bill Belichick amid growing local criticism of the NFL’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Belichick’s approach to the virus outbreak within the walls of Gillette Stadium has earned him praise from those in the Patriots’ locker room as they navigate the stops and re-starts of this unusual NFL campaign.

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“Bill has done a good job of (saying), ‘Hey, this is forever kind of changing, it’s very fluid,’” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “But once we get it, (he says) ‘This is what we’ve got, this is what we’re gonna do,’ and I think all of us have just kind of (fallen) in line.”

New England players returned to the team’s facilities on Wednesday for the first time since participating in a walk-through Saturday to prepare for their now twice-postponed game versus Denver.

After a fourth positive COVID-19 test last Sunday, the NFL rescheduled the game with the Broncos — initially set for Sunday, but bumped to Monday after a handful of positive tests last week — to this coming Sunday.

Devin’s brother, Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty, was among those who voiced their displeasure with the league and its players’ union last week, claiming “they don’t care” about the well-being of players over profit.

“When he speaks, it’s from talking to a lot of different people — obviously with the (players association), but I would say most importantly the guys in our locker room,” Devin McCourty stated.

He added, “I think the biggest thing he said was the guys in the locker room, the guys in the organization, coaches, players — that’s what it’s about. It’s us keeping each other safe. It’s hard to imagine people outside of our building are gonna care more about our safety. I think that’s just a common sense thought.”

New England’s facilities were shut down last week from Wednesday through Friday, and another positive test kept the team away until this Wednesday, when players were permitted to return in limited numbers for workouts.

“Knowing that tomorrow was unknown as to when we would get back, it’s a challenge — but I think that’s just all about being a pro,” safety Adrian Phillips said. “When you get to the league … you’re gonna have some obstacles that you have to overcome, and this is just one of those obstacles.”

In what was initially set as their bye week, the Patriots plan to hold their first practice on Thursday, barring additional virus-related setbacks.

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Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton out for season

The Denver Broncos’ passing attack now will have to forge on without not only its starting quarterback but also its top target.

Wide receiver Courtland Sutton is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Vic Fangio confirmed Monday.

Sutton had three catches for 66 yards before exiting the match. He missed the Broncos’ Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans while dealing with a sprained AC joint. Sutton, 24, earned a Pro Bowl berth last season after recording 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns.

He was expected to be the focal point of a passing attack that returned second-year tight end Noah Fant and added dynamic rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.

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The injury is just the latest in a series of significant blows to a Denver team that was looking to break out in Fangio’s second season at the helm.

Quarterback Drew Lock suffered a “bad bruise” on his shoulder that will force him to miss three to five weeks, Fangio stated Monday. Three-time All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller suffered a dislocated peroneal tendon that multiple reports indicated could sideline him for the remainder of the campaign.

Running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) also is expected to miss several weeks, per multiple reports, and cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder) will sit out at least two more games after being placed on injured reserve.

An already young Broncos offense will now feature one of the youngest wide receiver groups in the league as three rookies — Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland — will get plenty of work in the weeks ahead. Fangio said “it will be the guys on the roster filling that void [left by Sutton].”

Denver had seven wideouts on roster and will go with six for now. The Broncos host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week before facing the New York Jets on the road in a “Thursday Night Football” matchup.

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