September 05, 2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The cadre of cameras and reporters around his locker started to disperse when Von Miller feigned indignation.

''What? No questions about the chickens?'' he asked.

Forget for a moment his return from reconstructive knee surgery. Or playing alongside DeMarcus Ware now. Or facing Andrew Luck in the opener Sunday night.

Miller wanted to talk about his bird business.

It was yet another sign that Miller is back to being his old self, both on and off the football field, after a trying 2013 season that began with a six-game drug suspension and ended with a torn ACL.

The Denver Broncos star linebacker, who studied agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M, said he's downsized his flock of birds back home in Dallas from 60 to 40. He thinned out his coop with bigger things in mind.

''You get me one of those J.J. Watt deals, and I'll go commercial right now,'' Miller said. ''I'll have chicken stores everywhere. I've got to wait a little bit. When I get a little bit more money, I can do that.''

Yes, Miller, whose salary is $3.25 million this season, took note of the six-year, $100 million extension Watt recently signed.

''I thought it should have been more. I think he's still underpaid,'' Miller said. ''He's a once-in-a-lifetime player.''

Miller was the second overall draft pick in 2011, taken nine spots higher than Watt. Asked last month during joint practices with the Texans who was the better player, Miller cracked, ''If I had to take my pick, it would be me.''

Given what Watt commanded, can Miller expect nine figures the next time he puts his autograph on a contract?

''We've got great guys in the head office. I've got great guys that represent me. I'll let them take care of that,'' Miller said. ''All I can do is just go out there and play.''

If Miller hadn't run into some trouble last year he might already have his own megadeal in hand.

In the offseason, the Broncos exercised their fifth-year option on Miller, which means he'll make $9.75 million in 2015 if he's on their roster in March.

Miller has looked like his old self this summer, the one who set a franchise record with 18 1/2 sacks in 2012, not the player who was bogged down by extra pounds and the weight of the world last season when he managed just five QB takedowns.

''He came in with a clean mind, just willing to play football and not let everything off the field, whatever it may be, get to him,'' fellow fourth-year linebacker Nate Irving said. ''We're ready to see him back out there in action, sacking quarterbacks and doing funny dances.''

So is defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who could barely contain his excitement this week over the star-studded unit he's about to unleash.

Miller's physique and pass-rushing moves look just like they did in his first two NFL seasons, when he collected 30 sacks.

His playful persona is back, too.

Miller explained that he no longer finishes interviews with ''Gig `em'' because of his alma mater's rise following a move to the SEC, for instance.

''I don't have to promote anymore. You saw what we did the other week,'' Miller said of Aggies sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill shredding No. 9 South Carolina for 511 yards in his first start at Johnny Manziel's successor.

Miller, an Aggie ambassador if ever there was one, no longer considers the University of Texas an arch enemy, either.

''Back four, five, six years ago, you compared yourself to the school across the state,'' he said. ''We don't really have to do that anymore. We're letting our play speak for us.''

So, on to the Colts. But if you want to talk contracts or chickens, he's up for that, too.

Notes: DL Malik Jackson returned to practice after attending his father's memorial service in Irvington, New Jersey, on Thursday. ... Peyton Manning liked Tom Brady's ''When I suck, I'll retire'' quote on a radio show earlier this week. ''That's a pretty good rule,'' Manning said. ... LB Danny Trevathan, who broke his left leg Aug. 12, nearly walked out of the locker room Friday minus his crutches. ''I'm ditching them on Monday,'' he declared.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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