For a veteran defensive lineman like Shamar Stephen, being on the free agency market for three-plus weeks can take a toll.
But being patient and looking for the right fit was key for Stephen, which landed him Denver under the tutelage of Broncos head coach — and defensive guru —Vic Fangio.
“Being released and trying to come to a new team and learning what people want out of you and what you can provide for them is always difficult,” Stephen told the media in his first Broncos press conference Wednesday. “Being patient and understanding what I want out of me and what I want out of a defense was key for me.
“I’m very comfortable and happy with the decision I made.”
Among the reasons Stephen said he feels cozy in orange and blue indeed was Fangio, specifically his leadership and defensive mindset.
“It was being comfortable with the coaches, the staff and the scheme, and understanding what coach Vic wants us to do in the scheme,” Stephen said. “I just felt comfortable here being under his leadership.”
As a member of the Minnesota Vikings — where the NFL veteran spent seven of his eight seasons — Stephen got a front-row seat on several occasions to Fangio’s Chicago Bears defenses.
“The first thing about his defense — it’s multifaceted so you’re able to do a lot of things out of that defense,” Stephen said. “(He’s) able to bring a lot of pressure and determine where you want to get the ball on a second-and-long and third-and-long.
“He does a lot of good things with the pressure, and he’s able to force people to do what he wants them to do.”
And it’s the movement of Fangio’s defense that excites Stephen, who said he likes the idea of being able to play all the positions down the line.
“He expects the same thing out of all the d-linemen. Being able to be more than just pigeonholed into one position is very, very key for me and for any d-lineman that wants to play,” Stephen said. “You want to be a complete player, and that’s what this defense allows you to do — become a complete player.”
It’s also a defense, Stephen said, that has a “real good chance” of being dominant in 2021.
“There’s a lot of talent to go around and the draft hasn’t come yet,” Stephens said. “The depth looks very good; the players look very good. I’m excited to be in this defense just to aid (with) anything I can do to help win games.”
A seventh-round pick out of the University of Connecticut by Minnesota in 2014, Stephen has played in 98 career regular-season games (65 starts) for the Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. He’s recorded 173 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
Stephen started each of the Vikings’ 16 games in 2020 — the second time in his career he’s done so — pulling in 34 tackles and .5 sacks while logging the second-most snaps (663) along the team’s defensive line.
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