ENGLEWOOD - Aqib Talib was asleep in the first-class section of a Dallas to Denver flight the morning of March 12, 2014.
When he awoke, he saw a passenger who was both a stranger but familiar sitting in the same VIP section. Talib was coming off his first Pro Bowl season with the New England Patriots, whose attempts to re-sign him as a free agent came up a tad short in how the guarantees would pay out and when they would trigger.
“I got the call the night before (from the Broncos),’’ Talib said. “I was going to Denver for a visit, but I knew I was going to sign. I already knew what the deal was. I knew who was on the team.’’
But he didn’t know DeMarcus Ware was about to become his teammate. Not when Talib boarded his flight he didn’t. By the time he walked off the plane, though, Talib had made a pretty good educated guess.
The day before, Ware, who was having a Hall of Fame-career career as a pass rusher, was released by the Cowboys in lieu of his $12.25 million salary. He travelled to Denver with the parameters of a three-year, $30 million contract in place. Talib had the makings of a six-year, $57 million contract that was panned by some national critics as overpriced but is considered a steal for the Broncos now.
“It was a rough night, I barely could sleep that night, so I stayed up late and had a really early flight,’’ Talib said. “I got to the airport early and I immediately got in my first-class seat and went to sleep. Maybe about an hour into the flight I woke up and I had seen DeMarcus Ware over there. He’s in first class, too. He was like in row 1 right in the aisle. I went to the bathroom. When I woke up he was asleep. Then we landed and we both got off and I kind of asked him, ‘You about to sign, too?’’ He was like, ‘Yeah, if the numbers are right, yeah I’m signing too.’
“So, I’m like, ah, man it’s over with. It was a big day. It was a huge day. T.J. was there, too, so it was a big day, we were excited.’’
The first-class section that day was carrying two of the final pieces the Broncos would need to win Super Bowl 50. Ware wound up with a three-year, $30 million contract. T.J. Ward, a free agent strong safety from Cleveland, signed the same day as Ware and Talib, marking March 12, 2014 as one of the most productive press conferences in Broncos’ history.
Ward was released by the Broncos two weeks ago and is now with Tampa Bay. Talib is in his fourth season with the Broncos, ready for his matchup Sunday against Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys. Ware announced his retirement nearly three years to the day after his fateful first-class travel day with Talib.
The Broncos will pay tribute to Ware during the coin toss and after the first quarter of the game today against the Cowboys.
Ware may have been only with the Broncos for three years but they were three impactful seasons and not just because of his 24.0 sacks in 41 games, counting playoffs, but what he did for a young, standout defensive player who is still on the team.
‘’It was very impactful,’’ Talib said. “His play, the whole time he was here but his play that Super Bowl year was second to none. His play in the Super Bowl was second to none.
“And then what he did for that locker room – he took Von to the next level.’’
How so did Ware positively influence Von Miller?
“He just made him take care of his body more and just be a leader more, more vocal,’’ Talib said. “Von kind of acts like D-Ware now. As far as being a leader on the field, his routine as far as taking care of his body. He did a great job for the Broncos’ organization.’’
Ware had been a Broncos’ defensive captain each of his three years in Denver. In this, the first season since he retired, Von Miller and Talib are now the Broncos’ defensive captains.
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