ENGLEWOOD, Colo. For years, Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady blocked one of the leagues top pass rushers in practice.
Get beat by Elvis Dumervil then and it was hardly a big deal, especially since the quarterbacks couldnt be touched anyway.
That deal is now off as the former Boise State standout tries to keep Peyton Manning safe from the dangerous Dumervil, who returns to Mile High on Thursday night as a hybrid linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens after departing Denver in the offseason.
Hes a good player in this league, and hes definitely a challenge, said Clady, who was named one of the teams captains this week. Im looking forward to the challenge and just playing my game, seeing if I can get the best of him.
Clady knows Dumervils moves quite well, how he relies on leverage and his long arms to blow past offensive tackles. Thats the way Dumervil collected an NFL-leading 17 sacks in 2009.
And Dumervil knows Clady quite well, too, how the 6-foot-6, 315-pounder uses his quick feet to thwart rushers. Clady is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he allowed just one sack.
Its an intriguing matchup, one thats going to take some getting used to for offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
Just seeing (Dumervil) with a different team, its weird to watch because Im just used to seeing him in our uniform, Gase said. Hes a good player and well be ready for him.
Dumervil has long been a fan favorite in the Mile High City, only to leave town under strange circumstances. He was all set to agree on a new deal with the Broncos when a fax foul-up prevented that from happening and the team cut him to save money, making him a free agent. He then signed with Baltimore.
In Denver last season, Dumervil formed a nearly unstoppable pass rushing tandem with Von Miller as the dynamic duo accounted for 29 of Denvers league-best 52 sacks.
Dumervils now a rival and Miller will be on the sideline as he serves a six-game suspension for violating the NFLs drug-abuse policy.
Hes like a younger brother, Dumervil said. Hes dealing with tough times, and hell fight through it.
Dumervil isnt sure how he will be greeted by the capacity crowd. Hes ready for anything.
The same goes for the reaction from his former teammates.
Im sure theyll want a piece of us, and Im sure Im going to want a piece of them, Dumervil said.
To get to Manning, Dumervil will more than likely have to go through Clady, whos started every game since he was drafted in the first round out of Boise State in 2008.
Clady has been limited this summer as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
Then again, the entire line has been a little beat up and in need of a little reshuffling after center Dan Koppen was lost for the year with an ACL injury. Manny Ramirez will now snap the ball to Manning.
Still, the undisputed leader of that line is Clady, who signed a five-year deal in July worth up to $57.5 million.
Its good just to have that weight off my shoulders and not have to worry about it, he said. Its good just to know Ill be a Bronco long-term.
Knowing the speed at which Manning wants to operate this season, Clady worked his way into top shape by training for a half marathon.
He finished one, too, even if he had to walk some of it.
Keeping up with Mannings up-tempo pace will be just as much of a challenge.
Its a mental thing because once you get out of breath, its just a lot more thinking and youve got to hone in and focus, Clady explained. Its pretty tough.
But it also makes the defense exhausted, too, right?
No question, he said. But they get to rotate on the defensive line, so they dont get that winded. Its one of those things. As an offensive lineman, you have to be in there every play.