ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – DeMarcus Ware's retirement is both a blessing and a burden for Denver Broncos third-year pass-rusher Shane Ray.
"Not a lot of guys get to come into the league and have guys like that that are also willing to teach like DeMarcus," Ray said Wednesday. "It's very bittersweet for me. His presence in the locker room as a mentor and as a big brother is hard to replace. At the same time, this is how the business goes. This is how life goes. It's time for me to step up and handle my business and take everything that he taught me and apply it to the field."
Leaving offers on the table from the Broncos, Cowboys and Rams, Ware retired over the winter after a trying 12th season in which he missed six games and recorded a career-low four sacks. He missed five games with a broken forearm and the season finale following back surgery.
Ware finished his 12-year career with 138 1-2 sacks and a sack rate of .78 per game, second only to Hall of Famer Reggie White (.85) among pass rushers with 100 sacks or more.
Ware visited his former teammates this week and the team presented him with a framed No. 94 jersey .
"Demarcus' leadership goes such a long way. Everything that he's taught me the past couple years, all of the opportunities I had to learn stuff from him and see things from a first-ballot Hall of Famer's perspective is a huge blessing," Ray said.
Ray got a taste of what's to come this fall when he started eight games in his second NFL season, collecting 8 1-2 sacks and 48 tackles.
"I just viewed it as me and DeMarcus were splitting reps," Ray said. "I didn't really think of it as I was a backup or he was a starter. I viewed it as, whatever reps I get in this game, these reps should be at this level. They should be at this high level of play regardless of how many plays I'm in. ... You knew that I was on the field. Now, it's just an every-down thing."
Ray said he'd like to double his production in 2017.
"Bigger goals for me," he said. "I keep pressing the goals. When you sit in a room with two All-Pros and two potential Hall of Famers (in Ware and Von Miller), it's hard to say that mentality and that idea doesn't rub off on you. When I'm in there with Von and I see what he's able to do and know what I'm capable of doing, I want to be an All-Pro player. That's something that I aspire to every day."
Ray recounts his junior year at Missouri when he declared he could average one sack a game.
"Nobody can honestly stop me from getting one sack a game. I look at that in the NFL and honestly I feel the same way," Ray said. "Nobody can block me for a whole game."
WELCOME JAMAAL: A Kansas City native, Ray said he knows just how Chiefs fans are feeling now that running back Jamaal Charles has signed a one-year deal with Denver .
"I know they're sick back at home," he said. "They're sick. I can't tell you how many calls I've gotten, 'No man. Not Jamaal Charles, man.' For us, it's a great addition. Second to Priest Holmes, Jamaal Charles is probably one of the greatest running backs in Chiefs history. To acquire him and his play-making ability just adds a completely different dynamic to our offense."
Ray, who gave up a long TD to Charles his rookie season, said he's "excited for our offense and what they can do now because as a defense, we feel like if you can score 14 points, we're going to win the game. This offense is looking like it's going to do way more than that, and I can't wait. As a pass rusher, they're going to have to throw the ball if we're playing up."
Notes: The Broncos re-signed DE Billy Winn and waived DE Bobby Richardson.