Zach Miller was a deserving recipient of the Bears’ Ed Block Courage Award on Tuesday given how courageous, literally, the tight end has been since nearly losing his leg after a horrific injury suffered against the New Orleans Saints in October 2017.
But Miller acknowledged he eventually needs to make a decision on what his football career will look like in the future, perhaps soon. The Bears are willing to give him as much time as he needs and will pay him a base salary of $930,000 in 2019, allowing him to at the least have access to a medical insurance plan while accruing an additional season toward his NFL players’ pension.
While to an outsider, the chances of Miller ever playing football again may seem incredibly slim, Miller has never ruled anything out. But he’s still dealing with some nerve issues in his leg and said it hurt to push things while jogging, which he began doing in the winter.
“It’s something we’re exhausting every option we can,” Miller said. “I know it’s getting close. I can’t hold it hostage forever. And I don’t plan to, but there are some things I need to try and do physically and see if it’s possible.
“What we’ve been doing rehab-wise and communication-wise with the franchise is we’re going to give it a little bit of time to kind of see where we go, and when that point comes, I know I’ll have given every single thing I had to do that. And I’ll be comfortable any which way that it happens.”
Miller recognizes that he’s lucky to even be able to stand on two legs now given the severity of his injury. There was a legitimate chance of doctors needing to amputate his leg in the moments after he landed awkwardly in the end zone of the Superdome on Oct. 29, 2017, and he underwent nine surgeries in two months after the injury.
Miller may not know what’s next sixteen months later, but there is a part of him that wants it to somehow involve football.
“I’ve been involved in this game of football forever, since I was a little boy,” Miller said. “To have it not be part of your life at some point seems a little scary and probably weird for me. I’d love to do anything and everything I could to stay around this game I love, but I’ve got to figure out physically where I’m going to be at and see what I can and cannot do when that time arrives.”
For now, Miller is not only rehabbing to do everything he can to try to play football again, but also to continue to adjust to his “new normal.” He recently went on vacation (he was, per a few Instagram posts, joined by ex-Bears receiver Kevin White) and alluded to having “pain that you kind of gotta deal with” even in everyday activities. But through that pain, Miller continues to maintain a remarkable outlook on life, one that has served as an inspiration for people who’ve gone through similarly-devastating injuries.
“I understand the blessing it is to be here on my own two feet,” Miller said. “I understand the privilege I have to carry on the way that I am. And just to be involved with those — I get countless messages day in and day out from people who are rehabbing or going through something, who say hey, I was able to get through a day.”