Zach Miller isn’t ready to retire yet, but he knows the clock is ticking.
He’d like to provide an answer — for his own well-being, and that of a Bears franchise that kept him around last year to rehab a grisly knee injury — by the time training camp starts in July.
“I can’t hold it hostage forever,” the tight end said Tuesday. “And I don’t plan to. But there are some things I need to try and do physically and see if it’s possible.”
Speaking at a Tuesday luncheon where he was honored with the Bears’ Ed Block Courage Award, Miller said he could appreciate how far he’s come since dislocating his left knee 530 days earlier trying to catch a pass in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome end zone. The dislocation cut the artery that delivered blood to his lower left leg. Decisive medical care saved his leg from amputation, and a total of nine surgeries improved his daily life.
“I know the fact I’m here on two feet, to be able to stand here, is a blessing in itself,” he said.
Being able to stand and being able to play football, though, are two distinct challenges. When he jogs, it hurts. He admits that limitations, including nerve issues, have become his “new normal.”
“I’ve got a little bit of physical pain I’ve got to figure out if I can handle,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a big hurdle in seeing where my body reacts physically.
“I haven’t been able to go anywhere near to what I would do on a football field.”
The Bears signed Miller in June and immediately placed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list. When the season ended, he defaulted to the active roster.
If Miller can’t play, he could still stick around Halas Hall in another capacity. He said he’s yet to discuss that possibility with the front office, though he sounded intrigued.
“I’d love to do anything and everything I could to stay around this game I love,” he said, “but I’ve got to figure out physically where I’m going to be.”
At the banquet in Des Plaines, Miller was given the annual award that honors a Bears player for serving as a role model and displaying professionalism, strength and dedication. He seemed at peace with his next step, whatever it may be.
“I’m not going to drag it out to prolong this thing,” he said. “If it comes and goes and it’s time … for that chapter of my life to close, it just has to close. I’m not going to hang on if I’m not able to do it.”