ENGLEWOOD - Joe DeCamillis was sitting in the hotel lobby of the Denver Broncos’ hotel in Nashville, waiting to meet up with another coach for an Uber drive to dinner.
The Broncos special teams coordinator was talking about how good a player former Denver linebacker Bob Swenson was when DeMarcus Ware walked briskly by.
“Let me tell you something about that guy right there,’’ DeCamillis said, pointing at Ware, who smiled and pointed back in acknowledged but kept on walking. “I had that thing (Dallas Cowboys’ practice bubble) fall on me, right? Injured neck. DeMarcus had his personal chef cook up seven or eight meals for (DeCamillis’ wife) Dana and I. I had only been with the Cowboys 2 ½ months when it happened. He didn’t know me. We weren’t close buddies or anything. But he went out of his way to do that.’’
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware announces retirement
DeCamillis, the Cowboy’s freshly hired special teams coordinator was injured when a high wind storm blew down the team’s indoor practice facility in 2009. He wound up having surgery to stabilize the fractured vertebrae in his neck and back and never missed a practice. But that wasn’t that point he was making.
“Tell you something else about that guy,’’ he said. “You know that Ed Block deal they have?’’
Yes, the Ed Block Award goes to the player who primarily exhibits the most courage each year, as voted on by the players. Only in 2009, Ware made sure the award didn’t go to a player.
It's time .... pic.twitter.com/qlXpcNn12b— D-Ware (@DeMarcusWare) March 13, 2017
“They have a meeting to vote and DeMarcus stands up and says, “We’re giving the Ed Block to Joe De,’’’ DeCamillis said. “And then Jay Ratliff stands up and says, “We’re giving the Ed Block to Joe De.’ And then Jason Witten stands up and says, “We’re giving the Ed Block to Joe De.’ But it was DeMarcus who started it.’’
Ware was long gone from the lobby, as DeCamillis finished his thought.
“I tell you what, the NFL needs more people like him,’’ he said.
Ware would get the last of his 138.5 sacks the next day against Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota. He announced his retirement as an NFL player Monday, ending his 12-year career that included nine seasons with Cowboys and the last three with the Broncos.
Ware’s departure from the Broncos was not surprising. His announced retirement so early in the offseason was a jolt.
From the time the Broncos placed Ware on season-ending injured reserve prior to the final game of the 2016 season, it was clear the team would move on from their veteran pass rusher. They had first-round linebacker Shane Ray sitting behind Ware for two season. The Broncos felt it was Ray’s turn.
Although Broncos general manager John Elway and head coach Vance Joseph spoke with Ware several times at season’s end, the team never extended a formal contract offer. Elway and Ware met a week ago and mutually agreed it would be best if he tested the free-agent market.
Free agency opened Thursday and though Ware, who turns 35 later this summer, said in his farewell tweet he drew interest from teams and was feeling better than ever, decided four days later to hang up his helmet for the last time.
“When DeMarcus became a Bronco three years ago, he was a big piece that helped get us over the top—an elite pass rusher who brought much needed leadership to our entire team,’’ Elway said in a statement. “DeMarcus joined the Broncos on a mission to win a world championship. When you look at how he played during our Super Bowl 50 run, you saw how much he wanted to win a Super Bowl and how he helped lift our team to a World Championship by coming up big in key moments, especially in the playoffs.’’
Ware was good in each of his three seasons with the Broncos.
There were three games, though, when he was great. Ware was at his best during the Broncos three postseason games of 2015.
First was the home playoff game against Pittsburgh. Ware had a 13-yard sack of Big Ben Roethlisberger, plus the game-turning fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
Next – and this may have been the best game Ware ever played – was the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots. Ware was credited with not one hit on quarterback Tom Brady, not two hits. Ware hit Brady SEVEN times.
He could not be blocked.
And then, finally Super Bowl 50. Ware delivered the team speech the night before. He then had two sacks and four hits on Cam Newton.
"I played against DeMarcus and played with him,’’ former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said in a statement Monday evening. “I played against DeMarcus and played with him. It was an honor and a privilege to have done both.
“Being a teammate with DeMarcus and being a captain of the team was a real privilege for me. DeMarcus loved football. He loved everything about it. He loved putting the work in, loved helping the young players and of course loved playing on Sundays.
“I wish him all the best. He truly is one of a kind."
It’s shocking to consider. Manning only played four seasons for the Broncos, and Ware for three, but they were two of the best leaders the Denver franchise ever had. And now in a 12-month span, both retired.
Still don’t think the Broncos are in transition?
There was a little more glow around the Broncos with Ware in the building the past three years. A consummate professional. A mature leader. A warm soul with a great smile.
“We’re all fortunate to have DeMarcus finish his career in a Denver Broncos uniform,’’ Elway said. “We thank him for everything he did as a player and in the community, and we look forward to celebrating his Hall of Fame induction.”
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