Eighty-eight years ago New York Yankees dugout. First baseman Wally Pipp sat out his team's baseball game because of a headache. Lou Gehrig replaced him in the lineup and Pipp never regained his starting job.

What does this have to do with the Broncos?

Everything according to Wesley Woodyard. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has told his players the tale many a time Woodyard said with a smile. The linebacker laughs: Wally Pipp and the next man up.

Five years ago as an undrafted rookie Woodyard was the next man up a fill-in starter for injured veteran D.J. Williams. When Williams was suspended by the NFL in 2012 it was Woodyard who filled in again and he became the first player in Broncos history to have 50 tackles along with multiple sacks (three) and interceptions (two) in the season's first eight games. Williams was released in March.
The point of course is not to steal a teammate's job or doom a career. Woodyard mentions Pipp because the next man up — and what he might become — is the tenet that has guided the Broncos' defensive unit this season with the sixth-year captain at the forefront. How else can the defense look at the temporary losses of its aging star cornerback Champ Bailey and best player linebacker Von Miller without so much as blinking an eye?

"That next-man mentality is so important in this league and especially on our team" Woodyard said. "That helps everybody jell and bond together when we get a guy stepping in that doesn't get a chance to play that much and he comes in and now he's playing like a starter. It's good to see that happen throughout our defense."

Even if Miller were playing Woodyard would still be the veteran among the Denver linebackers the player who became a captain before many fans even knew who he was. People ask him how he earned such a designation as a minor player at the beginning of his career and he's yet to find an explanation beyond the simple fact that that's just who he is.