By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Bears tight end Zach Miller remained top of mind for coaches and teammates at Halas Hall on Tuesday as he continues to recover from vascular surgery on his left leg in a New Orleans hospital.
Miller is “progressing well” after an emergency procedure Sunday night, coach John Fox said. Miller suffered a torn popliteal artery after his left leg bent in reverse attempting to make a touchdown catch in the 20-12 loss to the Saints. Team doctors recognized his slipping pulse and rushed him to the hospital, where the procedure was done with great urgency amid concerns that he could lose his left leg if action wasn’t taken quickly.
Miller remains with his wife and father in New Orleans, while his mother is taking care of his three kids, even bringing them to Halas Hall for the Bears’ Halloween party on Monday night. Teammates have been thinking of Miller ever since the serious situation occurred.
“It’s scary,” Akiem Hicks said. “You want the best for your boys. I couldn’t really explain the emotion. It’s tough, it’s really tough.”
Fox held a team meeting Monday morning to address Miller’s situation and provide clarity to his players. As they worked through the loss to the Saints, there were plenty of thoughts of Miller.
Players have been texting words of encouragement to Miller. The Bears also have a team representative by Miller’s side who’s passing along messages from teammates.
The serious nature of the injury would warrant emotions from the locker room no matter who the player is. As it is, Miller is one of the most respected members of the team and considered a uniting force. Fox described Miller as the kind of player whom teammates and even coaches rally around.
After being signed to the Bears prior to Week 1, receiver Tre McBride was greeted on the practice field by Miller, who went out of his way to make him feel welcomed. It’s the same way he has treated all other teammates, including fellow tight end Daniel Brown, who has spent time at Miller’s house and enjoyed dinner with his family. The veteran Miller is known as one to look out for younger teammates.
“Our relationship goes beyond football,” Brown said. “And it continues, it will. He’s got some things that he’s going through. But I sent him my condolences and some encouragement just to let him know that we’re thinking about him.”
Added Hicks: “When it comes to being a human being, I don’t there’s more of a caring, charismatic gentleman – on and off the field. He plays the game hard, but he’s easy to talk to and somebody I consider to be a good friend.”
The respect for Miller is strong throughout the league. Fox was fielding calls from Jacksonville, where Miller fought back from several injuries over the four seasons with the Jaguars. On Tuesday, players from the Saints were planning to visit Miller in his New Orleans hospital.
Miller has dealt with injuries to his foot, calf, Achilles, shoulder and head in his career. He missed three straight seasons from 2012-’14 but returned to find success with the Bears.
What does that say about him?
“That he’s not a quitter,” Hicks said. “That no matter what adversity he sees, he’s going to do his best to overcome it.”