ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—Elvis Dumervil drops to one knee in prayer every time he steps on or off the football field, something he couldn't do for a full year.
Dumervil has a renewed dedication and determination after missing all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle.
It was a freak injury that occurred in the first week of training camp last year just days after he parlayed a league-leading 17 sacks in 2009 into a $58 million contract.
Dumervil couldn't wait to get back on the field this summer. His teammates teased him about being the only player who was excited for training camp to start. And he acknowledges he has some butterflies heading into Thursday night's preseason opener at Dallas.
It will be his first game since Jan. 3, 2010.
"Yeah, definitely excited for this week," he said. "It's been a while since I've played in a game."
Dumervil was expecting big things last year after signing his big contract, but during a routine 1-on-1 drill with Tyler Polumbus, he heard a pop and felt a sting in his chest.
He spent his season recovering from surgery and watching the Broncos wither without him.
They finished last in almost every major defensive category during a franchise-worst 4-12 debacle that led to coach Josh McDaniels' firing and a front-office shake-up that brought back John Elway, who hired John Fox.
One of the first items on Fox's to-do list was ditching McDaniels' 3-4 defensive scheme for the traditional 4-3 where his former pupils Michael Strahan and Julius Peppers thrived.
When he was done rehabbing, Dumervil went about reshaping his body, adding 15 pounds of muscle that pushed his weight to 260 in anticipation of his switch back to defensive end from outside linebacker.
"It's been a journey. I was able to kind of reflect on life and appreciate everything," Dumervil said. "It's been a stressful year. I've had a great supporting cast. I've had a lot of great people, family. So, it was tough at times.
"But for the most part, I kind of learned a lot and I kind of appreciate life and I'm excited. I'm about to jump out my skin this year, that's for sure."
Dumervil just wouldn't feel at home if he didn't also have a new defensive coordinator to work with, and Fox hired Dennis Allen, formerly the New Orleans Saints' secondary coach.
Dumervil hasn't had the same defensive coordinator in consecutive years since he was still at Jackson High School in Miami a decade ago.
"So, nine years straight," Dumervil said with a smile.
Three at Louisville, six during his half-dozen seasons with the Broncos.
Dumervil doesn't view the annual turnover as a detriment but rather, he tries to take something from each one.
"You never want to have different defensive coordinators but I have been able to learn completely different schemes and different positions," Dumervil said. "It makes you more dynamic and more educated as a football player. You try to pick each coach's brain and try to become a better player, not only physically, but mentally."
Dumervil finally has a pass-rushing partner, too.
The Broncos selected Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller with the second overall pick of the draft and plan to line him up on the opposite side of the formation as Dumervil at right end, forcing offenses into some tough choices in their protection schemes.
"Well, I get kind of excited about it," Allen said. "I think both of those guys, their best quality is their ability to rush the passer. ... We're going to have to make sure we do some things in first and second downs to get them in those longer yardage situations and really be able to cut those guys loose."
Add in a healthy Robert Ayers at left defensive end and the Broncos have a pass-rushing corps that Miller has dubbed "The Legion of Doom."
Providing they all stay healthy, of course.
Dumervil said he didn't have any hesitation when he got back onto the football field. He said this week that he has no residual effects from the injury other than still working his way back into "football shape."
When he lines up at Cowboys Stadium to face Cowboys left tackle Doug Free, it will be his first real game action in some 18 months.
"It's kind of hard to try to practice football on your own, especially the position I play, pass rushing. But I know one thing, I worked extremely hard," he said.
Dumervil figures he caught a break moving back to defensive end, too.
The last time he played that position, in 2008, he tallied just five sacks, but he played all season with a broken pinkie that hindered him. He said he's savvier now and is comfortable going back to the position he played in college.
"So, it's kind of refreshing, actually, to go back to a position I'm used to, I'm confident in," he said. "Especially having the lockout, it would have been that much more difficult to kind of miss the whole offseason training and OTAs without dropping in coverage and playing linebacker.
"So, yeah, going back to defensive end on such a short notice is really beneficial for me."
Also advantageous, he said, was the perspective he gained during his sabbatical from football.
"I couldn't lift weights or anything until February. It was weird because I couldn't run because I couldn't really move my arm as much. But once I was able to start lifting weights and start running, I took advantage of that and it just makes you appreciate everything," Dumervil said.
"It makes you appreciate working out and just the little things that you never notice that you start to notice. I'm thankful for it and I think I have a whole new perspective of playing football."