Others in the mix in a juggled linebacker corps include Nate Irving, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan. Another linebacker, Stewart Bradley, had emerged as a front-runner over Irving at middle linebacker during training camp, but he hurt his left wrist in a preseason game Saturday night and underwent surgery.
On Tuesday, the Broncos signed 12th-year veteran Paris Lenon, who played ahead of Bradley in Arizona last year.
“We’re going to have to have guys play better,” Fox said. “Everybody is going to have to step up. I know it’s `Next man up,’ but he’s a hard man to replace.”
Miller, meanwhile, has a number of issues pending before his return. Among them, staying in playing shape while not being allowed to practice with the team. He also must clear up his recent arrest for failing to appear in court for traffic violations. News of the arrest came as Miller was deep in negotiations with the league and the union over his case, about which he repeatedly insisted he had “done nothing wrong.”
Then, there’s the issue of keeping the trust of his teammates, who have steadfastly backed him during a summer filled with turmoil.
“Has not changed,” Peyton Manning said Tuesday, before word of the six-game suspension became official. “There’s been a lot of noise and speculation. But Von is one of our teammates. He’s part of the family, and I certainly have his back as his teammate and I know that all the players do and the organization does.”
The organization has been hit by a number of distracting stories since last season ended with a loss to Baltimore in the divisional playoffs.
The Broncos lost their second-leading sack man, Elvis Dumervil, because of a foul-up with a fax machine while his contract was being finalized. Two front-office executives got arrested on drunken-driving charges and were suspended. Miller’s status has been the news since training camp started, though it has shared headlines with a steady beat of injuries coming out of training camp.
All of which threatens the focus of a team that brought Manning in to win the Super Bowl now.
“I think sometimes you can use distractions to your benefit, in the fact that distractions are also when you are getting patted on the back all the time, which we have been quite a bit,” Elway said. “Von was a big part of our defense and we’re going to have to play and pick up that slack.”
Miller will be sidelined for the season opener against Baltimore, then at the New York Giants, home against Philadelphia and Oakland, at Dallas and home against Jacksonville. His return coincides with Manning’s first game in Indianapolis since he last put on a Colts uniform.
“The guys around him have to play better,” Fox said. “The guys on the other side of the ball have to play better. That will be the challenge to our team.”
AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.