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Broncos’ Domata Peko spurns retirement talk in pursuit of 14th NFL season

Broncos’ nose tackle Domata Peko gathered his three children at home this football season to address his future.

“How do you guys feel about me playing again next year?”

Peko, 33, is nearing the end of his 13th NFL season and the last of a two-year deal he signed with Denver upon arrival from the Bengals in free agency. Football’s physical and mental toll claims most players well before Peko’s now 200-game NFL tenure. Is it time he consider hanging up those cleats? Or charge full speed ahead into a 14th season?

Peko’s kids didn’t hesitate with their response.

“Heck yeah, dad. Go do your thing.”

That’s all the support Peko needed. And, as the Broncos enter their final game of 2018, home Sunday against the Chargers, retirement is far from the mind of Denver’s most veteran player.

“As long as I’m strong, healthy and productive out there, and still playing at a high level,” Peko said, “then I’m going to keep going.”

Peko, a 2006 fourth-round NFL draft pick, played 496 of 1,018 defensive snaps, or 48.7 percent, through Week 16 this season with 31 tackles. Peko recorded two quarterback hits and half-sack against the pass, and 9-1/2 run stuffs (gain of 3 or fewer yards) against the run, per Denver Post game charting. On a defense flush with exceptional edge rushers, Peko handles the typically uncelebrated dirty work inside on first and second downs, and all while staying healthy.

From 2007 and 2018, Peko has missed only seven regular-season NFL games with injury between the Bengals and Broncos.

“He’s been one of the most durable players ever to play at that position,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. “You see him come in the building every day and he always has a smile on his face. He’s a true professional. We do things to help him because he’s an older veteran. He doesn’t practice as much as the other guys during the week, but he still has a lot of juice left in the tank.”

Ask coach Vance Joseph, though, and the real test for whether a player is ready for retirement are motivation levels between February and May.

“I think the biggest factor for most veterans is the offseason,” Joseph said. “Everyone likes to play and get paid, but the issue is getting ready to play.”

Peko has maintained a similar offseason training regimen for years. He simulates many of the same individual drills he’d receive from defensive line coach Bill Kollar at UCHealth Training Center, but now with a twist. Peko’s children are ages 14, 10 and 4. They’ve grown up watching dad prepare. Now, they often join him. “I set up bags at home,” Peko said, “and we run through the same stuff together.”

It’s not all family fun. Peko ramps up the intensity as well.

“That’s one of the things that’s helped me play so long,” Peko said. “The offseason is no joke to me.”

Added safety Justin Simmons: “(Peko) takes care of his body like no other with NormaTec (compression therapy), hot tub, cold tub and steam room. We have salt baths, chiropractors and massages. Everything you think you can do to prep your body the right way.”

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