ENGLEWOOD – Derek Wolfe will happily spend his time chasing around his 3-year-old daughter instead of NFL quarterbacks.
The 32-year-old defensive tackle retired Friday, saying a hip injury that required a second operation last month made it too hard to spend an 11th year in the league.
Wolfe, who was released by Baltimore in June with an injury settlement, signed a one-day deal with the Broncos so he could retire in Denver, where he spent eight seasons and won a Super Bowl after being picked in the second round of the draft out of Cincinnati in 2012.
“I'm happy to be done with the game because (the injuries) were piling up and I know my wife is very happy not to have to watch me crawl into the shower every morning,” Wolfe said.
“It was just getting bad, so it was time to call it” a career, Wolfe added. “I get to be a father; I get to be a husband. I get to focus on those things now. … My daughter, she just turned 3 years old and I get to play with her and hang out with her.”
Wolfe lamented all the family time he missed out on after signing with the Ravens two years ago. He hurt his hip last August and missed the entire season.
“I get to relish in the moments that I wasn't around for, especially the last two years when I was in Baltimore during COVID, your family can't be around, it was tough, I missed a lot of time,” Wolfe said. “So, I'm going to make up for that now.”
Wolfe said he appreciated the Broncos bringing him back to say goodbye.
“I had a lot of great times here,” he said, “played a lot of good football, won a lot of games, won a Super Bowl.”
Wolfe played in 122 games across nine seasons, starting all but six of them, and he collected 350 tackles, 81 quarterback hits and 34 sacks. He added 28 tackles and 3½ sacks in seven playoff games, five of them with the Broncos.
Wolfe got to speak to the team after practice Friday, breaking down the huddle.
“I miss doing that stuff, just being around the guys,” he said. “That's the one thing I do miss. I don't miss the physicality of the game. I do miss being around the guys and getting to talk to them, spreading knowledge to guys.”
What he told them Friday, he said, was to seize the opportunity now that they've finally solved their quarterback quandary that's kept them out of the playoffs for six years.
“I told them, ‘Look, you guys finally got the piece that we've been missing, and that's Russell Wilson,” Wolfe recounted. “I said, ‘Follow his lead. He knows what he’s doing.'"
Wolfe also admonished the players to “appreciate every day” and not take “anything for granted out here.”
“In training camp it's easy to get complacent because you're just like, ‘Man, this sucks. It’s hot. My body hurts. My feet hurt. My shoes are soggy,' all these different things that you can complain about,'” Wolfe said.
“And looking back, the things that I used to complain about, that wasn't really a big deal. Being healthy is a blessing.”
After a solid rookie season, Wolfe got hurt in a preseason game at Seattle in 2013 and was paralyzed for three hours. He returned to action just two weeks later but suffered a seizure while on the team bus to the airport late in the season, then missed the Broncos' run to Super Bowl 48 where Russell and the Seahawks beat them.
He went on to play seven more seasons and helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 against Carolina two years after the seizure that he said almost killed him.
“That whole season, being able to be a part of something like that was really special,” Wolfe said. “All the plays that were made and all the games that we should have lost but we won because we were playing harder than the other team. I can't really think of a moment that surpasses that.”
Wolfe said he'd love to spend more time around the Broncos in retirement, tutoring the defensive linemen, but what he really wants to do is use his gift of gab as a member of the media to cover the game that gave him so much.