Bears

Zach Miller's horrific injury difficult to take in more ways than one for Bears

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AP

Zach Miller's horrific injury difficult to take in more ways than one for Bears

Zach Miller has feeling and blood flow in his left leg after undergoing emergency vascular surgery to repair a torn popliteal artery suffered when he dislocated his knee against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, which is encouraging news given the extremely severe nature of the Bears tight end’s injury. 

Coach John Fox said Monday afternoon Miller is not “out of the woods yet” but “it’s as good as could be expected at this point.” Fox spoke to Miller on Monday and said he’s in good spirits, and is with his wife and father at University Medical Center New Orleans.

“Typical Zach, he was arguing about catch, no catch,” Fox said. “But very supportive of the team. Very unselfish. That’s just him, and it’s genuine. It’s real, and I just kind of shared that back. He’s got all our love and prayers coming his way. He was basically telling us to hang in there. But that’s him. That’s just the kind of person he is and the kind of teammate he is.” 

The gruesome nature of Miller’s injury was horrible to see — Fox said he has not and will not watch the replay — and the ESPN report Monday morning that doctors were fighting to save Miller’s leg from amputation raised concerns well beyond football for the 33-year-old father of three. The surgery performed on Miller was successful to stabilize his leg, but he’ll remain in New Orleans for the time being. 

“It’s like when your kid gets hurt,” Fox said. “I mean, you know it happens, you don't want it to happen. you always want what's best for your kids regardless of whether it's physical or just life. Yeah, you build tight relationships with people and of course it affects you. I think it effects everybody in that locker room.”

The Bears will have to move on without Miller this season, with Daniel Brown and Adam Shaheen in line to receive more snaps going forward. But Miller is so much more than an on-field contributor to the Bears — he’s one of the most respected players in the locker room and consistently set the right example for the rest of the team here at Halas Hall. 

“We lost a soldier, a leader, and just a good guy,” wide receiver Kendall Wright said Sunday. “He’s a guy you want to be around all the time. He’s one of our leaders and one of our best playmakers. We’ll miss him.”

Bears players were briefed on the severity of Miller’s injury on Monday, and the news wasn't anything they had expected to hear. 

"I didn’t really want to believe it," wide receiver Tre McBride said. "I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t realize that that was even a possible consequence of having a dislocated knee. So when I heard that that was the last thing I was expecting to hear. Obviously you wouldn’t want that to happen to anybody, especially somebody who I personally have kind of leaned on since I’ve been here as an older vet and a role model. But I’m glad that he’s doing well and I’m sending him all the positive energy that I can and I hope that he’s back 100 percent soon." 

"It’s a huge loss from the field to the locker room," defensive end Jonathan Bullard said. "His personality — a fun guy to be around. It just sucks for the team."

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: