ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway summoned Von Miller to his office on the eve of training camp with three blank boxes left on his offseason to-do list:
1. Patch up the pair’s relationship frayed by their financial fracas .
“I wanted to make sure we were on the same page,” Denver’s general manager said.
2. Warn him about higher hopes that accompany mega-deals like his , a $114.5 million contract that includes $70 million guaranteed, a record for a nonquarterback.
“All of a sudden standards and expectations are going to go way up,” Elway said.
3. Admonish Miller to treat quarterbacks in the regular season just like he did in the playoffs .
“The first five years he’s done a tremendous job,” Elway said, “but I really believe that he’s just touched the surface and has a chance to get even better.”
Check, check, check.
Miller has an NFL-best four sacks through two weeks, including a sack-strip of Andrew Luck that sealed Denver’s 34-20 win over the Colts that was reminiscent of his mammoth hits in the Super Bowl when he snatched both the football and the Lombardi Trophy from Cam Newton’s grasp.
He also dumped Newton in this year’s opener, giving right tackle Mike Remmers a painful reminder of that night when Miller’s two forced fumbles led to 15 points in Denver’s 24-10 Super Bowl win.
“Right now he has to be at the top,” said coach Marvin Lewis, whose Bengals (1-1) host the Broncos (2-0) on Sunday. “I think he’s playing exceptional again. … There’s not many like him around.”
Miller was named the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week for his monster game against Indianapolis, when he collected seven tackles and three quarterback hits to go with his trio of sacks and a forced fumble.
Miller said it’s a matter of focusing on his craft after an offseason in which he made 48 television appearances, including “Dancing with the Stars,” and logged enough air miles to circle the globe almost three times during his contract stalemate.
Miller said Thursday that all the hours he spent learning dance moves from his partner, Whitney Carson, helped him get off to his great start this football season.
“I definitely think some of the practice I had with Whitney is paying off. I’ve never put six hours into one thing every single day,” Miller said. “Not even football. We practice for two hours. Six hours every single day, it made me consistent. It made me have to come to work every single day and be consistent and work on something that I wasn’t really good at.”
So, he’s applied that same work ethic to something he’s great at — football.
“I’ve already had agility and flexibility, but I just think the consistent part,” Miller said. “I’m not tackling guys on the dance floor, but the work that you put in to be a great dancer has a direct correlation to the work you have to put in to be a great football player.”
Although he’s still on TV aplenty as the NFL’s latest premier pitchman , the only dancing moves he’s flashing are the celebration shimmies and shuffles after his sacks.
“I just made the windows smaller. I just made my views smaller,” Miller said. “I don’t really spend too much time focusing on anything other than my teammates and my scheme. I spend a lot of time with my teammates. I spend a lot of time with Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward. It’s like college here for me. I watch film all day, getting extra workouts in, and it’s all football now. It’s not really anything outside of that.”
Quarterbacks are paying the price.
“You have to know where he’s at because he is a guy who can really change the course of the game with how good he is,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said.
In his last four games, counting the playoffs, Miller has 21 tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage, nine sacks, 10 quarterback hits (which don’t include his sacks), three forced fumbles, an interception and two pass breakups.
And this has come against Tom Brady, Newton twice and Luck.
“It’s very amazing just to see the moves he makes at the line,” teammate Bradley Roby said. “It’s very exciting. I know it’s intimidating for the other offense to watch because it’s just like, ‘How do you stop that?'”
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton