To give you some perspective on where all the attention lies at Halas Hall: No one on the Bears’ offense averaged more yards per reception (12.6) this season than Anthony Miller, and the wide receiver's second shoulder surgery in as many years didn’t come up for the first 20 minutes of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy’s end-of-season press conference.
The Bears stayed away from specifics, only saying he hurt the shoulder on a kickoff return in the season finale against the Vikings and was eyeing the start of training camp as a return date. Despite this being the fourth (counting college) time Miller’s had an issue with his shoulder, the team says they’re still optimistic it’s something he can get past.
“This is something that we can get fixed,” Pace said. “I know they're confident in the outcome of it. This is new news to us basically just yesterday that he's going to need this surgery. But we don't have any long-term concerns with him.”
Miller’s stats were better in Year 2, though many around Halas Hall were still frustrated with what they perceived as unfulfilled potential and streaky play. Mental mistakes plagued him early in the season and up until late November, his most notable moment was (kinda unfairly) drawing a lot of public criticism for cutting a route short – leading to an interception – against the Rams in that 17-7 loss.
Then a switch flipped, and over the next month he proceeded to catch 41 balls for 377 yards and two touchdowns.
“When I’m more involved, I feel like I can make a lot of plays for this team,” Miller said after setting a career-high in receptions (9) and yards (140) in the Bears’ 24-20 win on Thanksgiving.
“I just think as the season went on he got more comfortable,” Pace said. “His dedication to learning it in meetings, away from the facility, I think you felt that. When Anthony knows what he's doing on offense, he plays so fast and he can be such a dynamic part of what we're doing — and that's important going forward. I think as the season went on, you just felt his comfort level improve and our trust in him improve.”
Now Miller will be out for all of the Bears’ offseason workouts for the second consecutive season. Nagy called the situation “tough,” and emphasized that, as always, the team’s overarching concerns with the wideout’s game have never really been about the physical.
“We’ve got to make sure that we keep him mentally in it,” Nagy said. “And then when we get back to training camp, we pick up from there. I’m really proud of the way that he grew. He needs to continue to keep maturing on the field with some of the stuff – post-catch type deals, you know. He’s been better at that. I think that his talent is there, and I love his energy. But we want him to keep growing as a player, especially on the field with being smart with that. He’s done that.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.