ENGLEWOOD — The seizure, the weight loss, the false-start of a comeback. Derek Wolfe endured them all while always keeping one goal in mind: Getting back on the football field.
"That's my life, that's my love," the Broncos defensive lineman said Monday, after the team's latest offseason workout. "It's what I love to do. Take that away from me and I'd have a rough time."
That Wolfe kept football on the front burner through the difficult times is a testament to the third-year veteran's love of the game. This was not, by any means, your typical football injury.
Wolfe suffered a seizure during the bus ride to the airport for Denver's flight to Kansas City last Nov. 29. He ended up in the hospital for several days, and was put in a medically induced coma while doctors performed procedures to rule out a brain tumor.
Out of danger and released from the hospital a week later, Wolfe hurried back, and was at practice as the Broncos prepared for the AFC championship game against New England.
But he had dropped about 20 pounds and was low on energy. He couldn't get much done, even working on the edges of the defensive line — not the interior, which is where he was used to playing.
"I wasn't feeling right, and I didn't tell anyone I wasn't feeling right," he said. "That came back to bite me. It's kind of my fault. I tried to push it aside because we were playing great and I didn't want to miss out."
He missed the Super Bowl — not such a terrible game to miss, it turns out — and now he's getting ready for the 2014 season, playing on the inside, and back at his ideal weight at around 290 pounds.
"He's a motivated kid," coach John Fox said. "Football's a pretty big part of his life."
The lessons learned from his harrowing weeks on the sideline: "It's taking things in stride, saving my energy for game day," Wolfe said.
Other linemen, including Malik Jackson, have stepped up in Wolfe's absence. There are no guarantees the 2012 second-round draft pick, who has 10 sacks over his first two years, will get his starting job back.
He doesn't shy from the competition. Says he appreciates it, in fact.
Simply being back on the field is the reward that means the most to him right now.
"Something happens and you don't know if you're going to be able to play again," Wolfe said. "To be out here and to feel better than you've ever felt, it's an emotional feeling. It's a happy occasion."
Notes: Draft picks Cody Latimer (WR), Matt Paradis (C) and Corey Nelson (LB) all signed their rookie contracts with the Broncos on Monday. All were at practice.
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