Wolfe feeling fine nearly 2 years after spinal bruise
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Defensive end Derek Wolfe has both his health and his position back.
Wolfe played in every game last year, contributing to a Denver defensive line that allowed 79.8 rushing yards per game, the lowest single-season figure in team history.
Yet, he said he was just a shell of himself after missing a good chuck of the 2013 season, which was marked by a seizure on the team bus that doctors believe was related to a bruised spinal cord he suffered that preseason.
“Yeah definitely. My footwork and my movement, my quickness is starting to come back,” Wolfe said Wednesday. “I’m just starting to get used to carrying the weight again. Going a whole year not carrying that weight will get you. And then a year carrying it kind of helps out. So, I’m moving pretty well.”
He’s also jazzed about the Broncos’ new 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Asked if he were the prototypical “five-technique” defensive end in the 3-4, Wolfe replied: “You said it.”
Wolfe, who’s entering his fourth NFL season, hasn’t played a true 3-4 — with three down linemen and four linebackers — since his days at the University of Cincinnati. He said he was actually surprised the Broncos drafted him in 2012. After all, the old coaching staff preferred playing four down linemen and three linebackers most of the time.
“I mean, really that’s where I thought I was going to end up was with a 3-4 team,” Wolfe said. “So, it’s nice to be at my natural position.”
Wolfe said the 3-4 suits him because “I’m not really a speed rusher, I’m not really a big 330-pound defensive tackle, either. I’m kind of a ’tweener and that’s really what you need at the 3-4.”
Aside from going back to doing what he does best, Wolfe said it feels so good feeling good again.
He said he was surprised his 2013 troubles followed him through last season even though he had regained almost all 30 pounds he had lost and was back up to 285.
“When it comes to my body, I’m very impatient. So, I really thought I was going to bounce back a lot faster than I did,” Wolfe said. “And I bounced back health-wise, just the way I moved, the movements, subconsciously you hesitate a little bit because you’re protective of a certain area.”
Wolfe figures he simply came back too soon in 2013. He was sidelined for 10 days after his arms and legs went numb following a frightening hit in a preseason game at Seattle, but started the opener.
Three months later, he suffered a seizure on a bus ride to the airport for a flight to Kansas City and doctors in Denver put him in a medically induced coma. A day later, Wolfe woke up in intensive care. He was so confused about where he was and why he was strapped down, he broke the hospital bed before he could be calmed down.
He said the repeated hits that season wreaked havoc on his nervous system.
With another year to heal, Wolfe is eager to get on with his career.
“Really, that’s completely out of my mind now and I’m not even thinking about it,” he said. “So, I can get back to playing the way I want to play.”
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton