ENGLEWOOD - All-Pro linebacker Von Miller donned a scout team skullcap over his helmet Wednesday and spent much of practice helping the Broncos prepare to play more than a third of the season without him.
Miller was part spectator, part tutor when he wasn't squaring off against Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady as a member of Denver's scout team in his first practice since the NFL handed him a six-game suspension for violating the league's drug-abuse policy.
Nate Irving took his place at strongside linebacker in the base defense alongside Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard, and Shaun Phillips replaced him at rush end in the nickel packages.
"I don't know that one guy can take Von's place," coach John Fox said. "I just know collectively as a football team we have to all pick it up."
Now, at least, the Broncos know they'll be without their disruptive defender for the first six games of the season and that they'll have to generate pressure and make stops in other ways.
"The only difference is the guys that back him up are licking their chops getting a chance to step up and make some plays," Woodyard said. "We're going to definitely miss his presence on the football field for those six games but I have no doubt in my mind he's going to come back and continue to be one of the best players."
Phillips noted that instead of sulking on the sideline, Miller spent Wednesday's workout schooling rookie defensive linemen John Youboty and Sylvester Williams on the finer points of a slippery pass rush.
"He keeps himself involved," Phillips said. "He's a locker-room guy. He's the guy that makes everyone laugh and is out there coaching the young guys."
Miller can continue practicing with the Broncos and can also play in their last two exhibition games before his Aug. 31-Oct. 14 banishment, during which time he'll be allowed around team headquarters and can keep his team-issued iPad playbook but won't be able to practice or play in any games.
Phillips, for one, embraces, the defensive configurations.
"Whether I'm playing defensive end or linebacker, it really doesn't matter," he said. "Football is football. At the end of the day, you tackle the guy with the ball."
Few are better at that than Miller, who has 30 sacks in his first two pro seasons, but now that he's in Stage Three of the NFL's drug program, he faces up to 10 drug tests a month for the rest of his career with another slip-up carrying at least a year's banishment.
DE Malik Jackson filled in for Robert Ayers (foot). ... C Ryan Lilja (knee) missed practice again.