David Zalubowski
June 11, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) When a state trooper found weed in his car just four days before the NFL draft, Shane Ray knew he hadn't helped himself.

Or had he?

His misdemeanor citation certainly wound up costing him financially after he fell from a projected top-10 pick all the way to No. 23, where the Denver Broncos traded up to grab the SEC player of the year.

Ray, however, has found himself in an ideal situation.

''If you're going to fall,'' said his mother, Sabrina Johnson, ''who better to catch you than John Elway?''

And who better to learn from than Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware?

Instead of serving as a cornerstone for a rebuilding franchise, Ray's playing for a contender with a pair of top pass rushers he's long admired.

''It's very helpful to me, especially as a rookie, because I get to see from the eyes of two Pro Bowlers and how they view things, and now I can apply it to myself,'' said Ray, who has vowed to reward Elway for given him his second chance.

Ray had his most extensive action yet on Thursday when the Broncos wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp.

The Missouri alum was limited for most of the Broncos' offseason program because of a right toe injury he sustained in the Citrus Bowl. Then, last week, he tweaked his right thigh, which he called a minor setback.

The Broncos conclude their offseason training activities next week, and Ray is slated for even more extensive work: ''I think next week will be a big week for him,'' defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said.

After being mostly limited to classroom work, Ray said he's eager to start playing alongside the likes of Miller and Ware.

Ray actually picked Miller's brain before they were teammates. They met through a mutual friend, running back Marcus Murphy who was drafted by the Saints.

''I was telling him about the locker room and how to respond to vets and how we do stuff here with the Broncos - not knowing that he was going to come here,'' said Miller, who asked Phillips right after the draft to draw up plays where he, Ware and Ray would be on the field together.

First things first: Ray has to get up to speed physically and the tutoring sessions from Miller are part of his continuing education.

''I've always looked up to Von,'' Ray said. ''And when I finally was able to sit down and talk to him and kind of ask him some questions about pass rush, it was just like, wow, it was so cool. When I got drafted here, he texted me and told me, `Congratulations,' and now I'm able to sit in a room and kind of learn from his point of view ... just like with DeMarcus.''

Ray's on-field work has mostly been standing on the sideline next to an assistant coach who's peppering him with questions about every play he's watching, the offensive formation, the outside linebacker's responsibility, what he would have done.

''I'm seeing it even though I'm not doing it,'' Ray said.

That's starting to change now that his injured toe is getting better and he's able to display that explosive first step that became his calling card at Missouri.

''I feel the best I've felt since the injury. I feel like I'm almost to 100 percent. I'm able to break and run and stop,'' Ray said.

Ray was fitted with an orthotic in his right shoe that protects the toe, which he kept re-injuring while training for the combine and team workouts.

''I didn't have that support with an already messed up toe. I kept hurting myself. And I kept taking steps back,'' Ray said. ''So, with the orthotic, it's allowed me to heal properly in all of my rehab and it also kind of prevents any other injury. So, I feel great. I'm running again, I'm changing direction like I used to. So, I'm excited. That's why I'm so excited for next week.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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

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