ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) _ Forget Disneyland. When the booming confetti cannons heralded the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl championship, DeMarcus Ware caught Demaryius Thomas’ gaze on the sideline and exclaimed, “We’re going to Africa!”
All season, the pair had planned their adventure to South Africa including a safari, a deep water fishing trip and an excursion to see Nelson Mandela’s old jail cell.
So, while their teammates celebrated their 24-10 win over Carolina with the traditional tour of talk shows and dance parties, Ware and Thomas took a very different kind of victory lap.
Ware said Monday that he and Thomas mapped out their trip to Cape Town on Tuesdays during the season. They promised themselves, however, that if they didn’t win the Lombardi Trophy, they’d just get refunds and cancel their flights altogether.
“You’ve got to sort of have your ifs,” Ware explained. “In life, if you do something bad, you’re not going to reap the benefit. So, that’s how we looked at it. If we don’t win this, we’re not going to reap the benefit of planning this the whole year. We’ll plan it another year.”
The only thing they ended up losing was their lunch.
“I’ll probably never go deep sea fishing again,” Thomas said last week. “I was sick the whole time. Safari was fun. To get to see all the animals and to see how close you can get to them. I was scared at times, but it was amazing.”
Their guides were named Marvin and Melvin, but they took to calling themselves De’Marvin and De’Melvin in honor of their famous football guests.
“Usually you take the kids to the zoo and there are tame animals. In the jungle, they’re in their own habitat and you can see they had a totally different way when they know that you can be food on that truck,” Ware said. “It was exciting, but the people we were with protected us and everything was good.”
The safari was the highlight of Ware’s busy offseason that included a day in his honor in his native Alabama last week and a restructured contract to help the champs navigate free agency.
After recovering from a lower back injury that sidelined him for five games in the regular season, Ware had a dozen quarterback hits in the playoffs, providing the bookend to Super Bowl MVP Von Miller during the Broncos’ championship run.
He knew GM John Elway was going to ask him to rework his contract this offseason. Declaring, “I’m not here for the money, I’m here to win championships,” Ware said he was more than willing to work with the team.
“So, I was welcoming it,” Ware said. “I know it’s that part of my career to where what I bring to the game is sort of an intangible thing of leadership, motivating the guys, getting out there and playing when I can. But also you’ve got guys like Shaq (Barrett) and Shane (Ray) that were productive last year. And one thing I told them is I feel those guys are ready but they also need that veteran leadership. I said whatever we need to do to keep me here.”
Playing in more of a situational role this year would help keep Ware healthy and available while also allowing more room for Ray and Barrett to grow.
“I wouldn’t think my role would be different. I mean, my role is always sacking the quarterback, so that’s going to stay the same,” said Ware, who turns 34 this summer. “Coaches are staying the same, the trainers are the same, the strength guys are the same. So, I don’t think my role is going to change.”
If anything, he said he’ll dial back his snaps during the offseason program.
“This is my 12th year, it’s not like I don’t know what to do, especially in Wade (Phillips’) defense,” Ware said.
Ware said he wasn’t worried about Miller’s situation, either.
Miller hasn’t signed his franchise tag and is competing on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” rather than attending the team’s voluntary offseason program.
“I know he wants to be a Denver Bronco and he’s doing what he needs to do to take care of himself this offseason,” Ware said. “So, we’ll welcome him back with open arms when he comes back.”
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton