Bernstein: Brutal Injury, Bad Call On Rough Day For Bears

By Dan Bernstein —
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) Showing a replay of a grisly injury is always a tough call for producers, with conventional wisdom holding that the viewer needn’t be sickened more than necessary and the player’s dignity should be spared.

But when something like Bears tight end Zach Miller’s mangled leg occurs simultaneously with a incomprehensibly overturned call, we get the worst of possible worlds in that case — something we don’t want to see over and over again, but have to. Viewing it while squinting and peering through one’s fingers didn’t help either, take my word for it.

My policy on those is to stay away. We start going through our personal files of other examples burned into our brains for good, be it Joe Theismann, Robin Ventura, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Ware or any number of flopping feet and legs pointed in wrong ways, and I’m more than ever satisfied with a description of what happened instead of going out of my way to confirm it for myself.

This one, though, left us no choice in the Bears’ eventual 20-12 loss to the Saints on Sunday. Even concentrating on the ball the whole time wasn’t enough to un-know what also happened, as we watched Miller appear to retain possession throughout the duration of what we have believed to be the process on the key third-quarter play. We all saw it, including both FOX broadcasters and rules expert Dean Blandino.

Perhaps the Bears wouldn’t have beaten the Saints in the Superdome regardless, but everything about that specific outcome was hard to take — the fact that a player suffered such a awful injury, the fact that it was Miller, specifically, a terrific guy who has fought his way back from too many other similar moments already, the fact that a gorgeous throw and catch were taken off the board after the fact for dubious reasons and that the postgame explanation given by referee Carl Cheffers to a pool reporter made it even more unsatisfying.

“We ruled that he was going to the ground as part of the process of the catch,” Cheffers said. “So when he goes to the ground, he has to survive the ground. He went to the ground, he temporarily lost control of the ball. The ball hit the ground, therefore it’s incomplete. The ball hit the ground out of his control. So as part of the process of the catch, he did not complete that process, and therefore it was incomplete.”

Nobody else saw the ball hit the ground, only that Miller completed the catch with his arm under the ball and set it down well later, after his leg had all but fallen off. Either Cheffers is wrong, somebody at replay central is wrong or it was called completely correctly and it all just sucks, this bad rule that we still don’t understand, somehow.

If I’m Miller, I’m making a show of carrying an NFL football into surgery with me, and tweeting a picture asking if the catch process is still ongoing. I’m having someone take a photo of me holding the ball during any procedure while under anesthesia and later in the recovery room, continuing to ask when it’s allowable to set the ball down.

It never felt like the Bears were going to win Sunday, but it all felt far worse than it should have.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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