Published: July 29, 2013
DENVER - With a grip tight enough to put a cow in a sleeper hold, Simon Fletcher shook another hand. Then he revealed the secrets of his barbecue joint.
"We never bake it. We never expose it to steam," the grill-master/sack-master said on the sideline at Broncos training camp Monday.
"We cook authentic barbecue, all the way."
His joint is called Whistle Blowers Grill and BBQ. It's on 8th Avenue in Greeley.
And that is a shameless, heartfelt plug, because I don't want to Fletcher to shake my hand again. I think he broke something.
Do you remember when Fletcher broke quarterbacks? His 97.5 sacks, over 11 seasons with the Broncos, set the franchise record. It still stands, 18 years after Fletcher retired.
His sack record will fall, Fletcher told me.
Von Miller will fell it.
Fletcher is as sure as his handshake.
"When I first saw tapes of Von before he was drafted, I believed that if we get this kid, we have the chance to have as good a pass rush as the Denver Broncos have ever had," Fletcher said with 100-percent certainty.
"I mean that. And I include our pass rush with Rulon Jones, Karl Mecklenburg, Barney Chavous, myself, all those guys."
"All those guys" - or, those four guys - are the top four sack artists in the Broncos record book. They played together, at least for one season.
"The difference with Von is (that) Von Miller adds a dimension in that he can be unstoppable. I mean, unstoppable."
Like his barbecue - and I'm taking his word on that, since I haven't eaten his barbecue - Fletcher's words are authentic. What he says is what he believes.
"My reaction if Von Miller breaks the record? I would probably pay for him and a friend to go out to dinner."
If one day Miller breaks Fletcher's record, I suggest something different: Fletcher should present Miller not with a plaque, but with a plate of Texas barbecue.
Simon is from Bay City; Von is from DeSoto.
Do it at the 50-yard line, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, in front of 76,000. Do it before a Raiders game. Rub it in. Fletcher loathes the Raiders.
"These days you don't have to worry about Steve Wisniewski of the Oakland Raiders grabbing your leg and pulling it out of the socket," Fletcher said.
The Broncos get a break Tuesday, their first day off after five days of training camp.
Orlando Franklin, the right tackle, and the other poor, massive souls assigned to block Miller deserve a day off. It's just practice, and Franklin, to his credit, was a wall Monday.
But, as Fletcher said, Miller mostly has been unstoppable. He spends so much time in the backfield, it's like he wants to borrow Peyton Manning's Buick.
This isn't a column about Miller's potential suspension, whether or not he failed a drug test or two, or if he'll be in uniform to chase down Joe Flacco and the Ravens on Sept.?5.
This is about Miller as a linebacker, a unique quarterback menace. The man with more sacks than any other Bronco said Miller has the most talent of any other Bronco, at least on defense.
"He should have 30 sacks (in a season)," Fletcher said.
If you watch closely on the practice field at Dove Valley, it's not complicated: Miller is simply better than everyone else. I'm no football scout, but even the 3,000-plus Broncos fans in attendance Monday could see that.
"I think I've made huge steps from year one (when he had 11.5 sacks) to year two (18.5)," Miller said. "I think I'll do the same thing from year two to year three."
Fletcher, the franchise career sack leader, sees it.
Fletcher said Miller should aim high. Blockers can't hit low.
"When I played (from 1985-95), they could rip your jersey off. They could dive at the back of your leg. It's a much milder, softer, safer game," he said. "You can do your job without worrying about a receiver cracking down and killing your knees.
"These guys are protected. That's why Von should have 30 sacks. They can't cheat you. They can't do anything dirty."
Fletcher played in three Super Bowls. He suggested those Broncos were overachievers.
"We had some people on there that couldn't have played for my high school. We had no backups. If we lose a starter, we're done."
In that case, how'd they get there?
"We got there because of our core group busted (butt)," Fletcher said. "The guys who counted were held accountable. We held ourselves accountable."
After watching last season, and Monday, Fletcher said these Broncos possess the personnel and the coaching staff to win the Super Bowl.
"I'm 100 percent certain of that," he said, authentically.
One more thing, Fletcher said. Miller is invited to break his sack record. But the Broncos are not invited to eat free barbecue.
"I'm not cooking for these boys!" Fletcher said. "Have you seen the size of these guys? I'd have to cook a herd."