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Tue, 12 Jun 2012 03:50 AM EDT

Wesley Woodyard is shaping up for a bigger role than ever with the Denver Broncos. Basketball odds

The 5th-year pro is coming off a year in which he piled up career highs in tackles (97), starts (7) and forced fumbles (2) while replacing middle linebacker Joe Mays on passing downs and making spot begins at weakside linebacker for D.J. Williams.

Williams, who led the team in tackles after missing the 1st 3 games with an elbow injury, is facing a 6-game drug suspension to start the 2012 season. He also has an August 15 trial on misdemeanor driving under the influence and traffic charges.

Williams’ troubles might give Woodyard the opportunity to have far more than a rotary role in Denver’s 4-3 scheme next season, particularly early on.

Woodyard, whose role has increased every year in Denver since the Broncos signed him as an undrafted independent agent out of Kentucky in 2008, parlayed his exceptional 2011 season into a 2-year, $3.5 million deal over the winter.

That won’t be starter’s cash in today’s NFL, but Woodyard indicated after the team’s latest voluntary practice that he has his sights set on joining Mays and ruling Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller atop the Broncos’ depth chart at linebacker.

“Everyone wants to be a starter,” Woodyard said. “This year it will be an open competition when we start summer camp, so I feel a bit like my options are open everywhere that I’d have (gone).”

Woodyard was the starter on the weak side during an open practice last Monday, when Williams was absent from the start of a few days of voluntary on-field workouts.

Woodyard said Williams’ off-field issues aren’t anything that he contemplates.

“No, man, we don’t chat about that. That’s his issues. I have just got to be prepared whenever I’m called to be on the field,” Woodyard said. “It’s out of my hands. I’ve just got to become the next guy to step up and if I am getting an opportunity to vie for that beginning spot during summer camp, I’m definitely about to do it.”

Williams is suing the NFL, seeking to overturn his drug suspension without pay. The court action says that the league violated protocol in collecting urine samples.

Woodyard stated that he wasn’t bothered when the Broncos drafted another quick and undersized weakside linebacker out of Kentucky in Danny Trevathan in April.

“It’s a great chance for both of us,” Woodyard said. “We’ll both compete and I know what kind of player he is coming from a college that I went to. I know he’s going to give it his all every time he steps on the field, so it’s an honor to have a guy like him on our team.”

Woodyard announced he’s been counseling Trevathan for years, so it’s not like he’s suddenly sharing the tricks of the trade with him during these offseason workouts.

“He’s sort of like my little brother, but I am trying to give him the opportunity to learn the things he will be able to do and he cannot do before I go in there and try and tell him everything,” Woodyard announced. “So, he’s coming along well. I think he’s had like 2 interceptions all though these OTAs, so he’s doing pretty well.”

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