Zach Miller Must Re-Earn His Place With Bears

By Chris Emma—

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) – Better than most, Bears tight end Zach Miller understands guarantees are few and far between in the NFL.

It’s a reality with which Miller is quite familiar in his injury-plagued career, which included a broken foot last November that required surgery. Finally back to the practice field and upon his arrival to training camp, Miller found a tight end room filled with new faces – some that could be his potential replacements.

The Bears signed veteran Dion Sims in free agency and drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round. They have Daniel Brown, who could make Miller expendable if he has a big camp. And young players like Ben Braunecker and MyCole Pruitt will fight for roster spots, too.

Bears coach John Fox has pointed out the tight end spot boasts the most competitive position battle on the team. Places on the roster must be earned.

As for Miller?

“You’ve got to understand the business side of football,” Miller said. “You guys throw dirt on my grave, that’s fine. I’m getting up to play the next day, so that’ll all sort itself out.

“It doesn’t matter to me, I’m going to show up for work and do my thing, and work my ass off to make this football team and make it better.”

Miller knows the drill. His career seemed over after three consecutive lost seasons, including a 2014 campaign in which he had a Lisfranc injury that could’ve ended his time with the Bears. Miller initially had the belief of former general manager Phil Emery and then earned the faith predecessor Ryan Pace, getting a continued chance in Chicago. He broke out in 2015 with a career-best five touchdowns in 15 games but suffered an injury that caused him to miss the season finale.

Now 32, Miller has never played a full 16-game season in his nine-year career, which serves as a frustrating reality.

“I love playing football,” Miller said. “I understand freak things happen. I’ve done everything I could do injury-prevention wise. There’s nothing I could do to stop my foot from getting crushed. It’s a disappointing, but I also know that I can grind through that because I’ve done it before. I still feel I can play at a high level. Now it’s just time to go out and show it.”

The Bears still have a belief in Miller. He very well could’ve been an offseason cut like cornerback Tracy Porter as the team continues to count more on youth, but Pace knows what he can be.

Whether Miller will make the active roster come Week 1 remains to be seen. For now, the Bears are working him in a key role early into training camp. It appears to be his job to lose.

“There are very few people have four- or five-year deal,” Miller said. “In the NFL, everybody’s on a one-year deal, let’s be honest. “That’s how the business is. I have no anxiety. I’ve been working for nine years, day in, day out, same thing — throw my cleats on, lace ’em up and go play football.

“I’m playing in The National Football League and people call it a job. How can you get any (more) fun than that? Everybody grows up as a youngster, what do you want to be? Probably 90 percent of them want to be professional something – shoot, might even be a hundred (percent) — and I get to live that dream out on a daily basis. So I’ll do it until the wheels fall off or till they kick me out of here.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

More from Chris Emma

Watch & Listen LIVE