ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Over the course of his five years in the league, Derek Wolfe, the Denver Broncos most intimidating player, has learned a lot.
He loves to win, he doesn't like being nice to rookies and there actually is a middle ground between fighting somebody and not saying anything to them.
Most of all, though, "I've learned how to be myself."
Wolfe is being himself with the players, himself with the coaches, and on Tuesday, he was himself with the media. That means no sugarcoating, no cliches and, yes, no filter.
It all started when the Broncos big man up front, who claims he's now walking around at about 310 pounds (listed at 285), was asked about how he's evolved as a leader.
"I've been around enough great players that I've seen how not to do it and how to do it," he explained, his word increasing in intensity. "Over the years, maturing over every season, it's a learning session. Every season is like a life span; you learn something new every season. Last season I didn't do enough, I have to take more of a leadership role."
"I didn't speak up enough," he added, explaining where he didn't do enough, now sounding annoyed with himself. "When I saw things, I didn't speak up, and I didn't say things when I should have. I'm not letting that s*** slide this year."
You must wonder why he hasn't been speaking up all along, right? After all, he is the biggest, baddest dude on the team, a little fire stoking from 95 would burn hot under anybody. The problem was, though, he still didn't quite know how to approach things in a productive way.
"I'm still learning how to, like, not fight people," he said with a smirk. "For me, it's either confrontation, fist-fight or say nothing."
As he's climbed the leadership ladder over the past five years, though, Big Wolfe has matured.
"Sometimes embarrassing somebody in front of everybody isn't the way to do it, you have to take them aside after practice and let 'em know."
But he reiterated, he is definitely going to let them know.
"When I see guys not doing the right thing, I'm going to tell them. I'm not going to sit back and just let that s*** slide."
This new reluctance to let stuff slide, per se, comes from last season's letdown on the defensive line, a letdown that Derek has a pretty simple explanation for.
"I can sit here and make all the excuses I want, but at the end of the day we just didn't get it done," he explained. "It doesn't matter what happened, look at the super bowl season—we got put in a lot of bad situations, we just made it happen. There's no excuse for that; it's bad football. 'Guys were banged up,' whatever. It doesn't matter, you just have to get it done and that's what we're gonna to do this year, we're gonna get that s*** done."
And getting it done in this town means beating out the heavily-favored New England Patriots in the AFC. As it was pointed out to the mountain of a man, the Pats are just floating around 4-to-1 to win it all next season in Vegas. The closest AFC team is the Raiders at 12-to-1, and the Broncos sit back at 16-to-1.
"They can talk about numbers and all that s***, but they can't measure heart," Wolfe said with a piercing glare. "I think this team's got more heart than anybody and we're gonna prove that this year."
With the media in awe over the fire-breathing presser, Wolfe was asked as the meeting concluded if the world should expect more of this openness as the year goes on.
"Yeah," he said as the proverbial mic left his hand and headed for the floor. "I got a lot to say."