ENGLEWOOD, Colo - Team leader and future Hall-of-Famer DeMarcus Ware will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a broken right forearm sustained in Sunday's win over the Indianapolis Colts. In his place will be the team’s 2015 first-round NFL draft pick, Shane Ray and the young man is ready.
“I think this offseason prepared me more than anything,” Ray declared Monday. “I took a lot of the one reps [during the offseason] with Von [Miller] and DeMarcus [Ware] gone, and even now I have had probably the second most snaps in our room behind Von. I'm a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident. I know what I can do, my teammates know what I can do so with DeMarcus going down. Of course, it sucks but I’m still bringing it at a high level, and I can make a huge impact, and that is what I’m going to do.”
Ray certainly made an impact Sunday, as the Indianapolis Colts began a late fourth quarter drive down six points, Miller got to Andrew Luck and jarred the football loose. Ray, coming from the right edge, pick up the bouncing ball and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown, sealing the victory.
Last season, his rookie season, Ray played in all but two of the team’s 19 games and participated in 31-percent of regular season defensive snaps and added 62 playoff snaps. He tallied 22 tackles and four sacks during his rookie season but after an offseason in which Miller was absent due to contract negotiations and Ware was out due to a back issue, he is more prepared than ever.
“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Ray said. “Now I am able to just make plays instead of thinking about a lot. Just the growth I have from year one to year two, when I turn on the film I see a totally different player. For me, I want to take the steps to be great. I want to be a Pro-Bowler, an All-Pro, and I have two great examples of that in my room of how to do that. I want to take advantage of that.”
Ray is first in line to take the bulk of Ware’s playing time while he recovers from the surgery. Head Coach Gary Kubiak stated Monday that the timetable for a return is around four to six weeks and that Ware will likely have a plate placed inside his arm. Last season, Ware missed five games due to back issues and his time sidelined built some confidence in Ray and Barrett’s abilities amongst his teammates.
“We kind of see him and Shaq [Barrett] as starters. They play a lot, and they have always had a big role on our defense,” Chris Harris Jr. said plainly Monday. “I mean those guys are ready. We went through this last year. Those guys are prepared. They are ready for this. It’s nothing new, nothing we haven’t been through with D-Ware.”
Coaches and players often talk about the importance of a jump in play that is necessary from a player’s rookie season to their second year. Ray had immediate high expectations as the 23rd-overall pick in the 2015 draft but Ware and Miller’s presence as starters tempered those expectations. As the team travels to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, Ray has something to prove to himself and the NFL. He believes he is prepared, but only time will tell.
“Him being able to set that edge. That is just a part of the maturity now,” Harris exclaimed. “He’s seeing things. The game is slowing down a little bit for him. We still haven’t seen the best of Shane yet because he hasn’t got that many plays yet.”
There is no telling just how long Ware will be sidelined, but Ray will get the snaps and attention he has been seeking. He has had a solid start to his career, but the Broncos will be hoping, his best is just around the bend.