NEW ORLEANS — Wide receiver Anthony Miller’s ejection from the Bears’ playoff game was a fitting end to his underwhelming season — and perhaps his time with the team.
His season began with the Bears promising he was finally on top of the playbook — although he immediately fell behind rookie Darnell Mooney in the pecking order — and closed abruptly Sunday when he punched Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson early in the third quarter of a 21-9 loss.
Gardner-Johnson said something to Miller after a play, prompting Miller to turn and hit him in the facemask. Both players were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, but a punch is grounds for ejection.
Gardner-Johnson is a known agitator, and, incredibly, the Bears devoted an entire meeting to his tactics Wednesday morning, urging players to resist being baited into costly confrontations with him.
“We spent time literally showing and explaining a particular player’s actions in games and teaching it,” coach Matt Nagy said. “That’s taking 10 or 15 minutes out of your day, which is precious. We’ve got to be stronger, and we can’t have that happen.”
Miller should have learned already. In the Bears’ previous meeting with the Saints in November, fellow receiver Javon Wims was ejected and suspended two games for punching Gardner-Johnson.
Asked Thursday about Gardner-Johnson, Miller initially responded with, “Who?” Then he said, “We’re just going to play our game. Guys like that do what they do, but your bark can’t be louder than your bite, and it’s hard to bite, so I’m not worried about that.”
Miller’s lapse was especially irresponsible given the Bears were missing Mooney (ankle injury). Miller’s ejection left them with Allen Robinson, Wims, Riley Ridley and punt returner DeAndre Carter at receiver.
What was anticipated — again — as a breakthrough season for Miller instead resulted in fewer catches (49) and yards (485) than he had last season, with two touchdowns. He also saw his playing time cut from 64% to 55% of the snaps.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace traded up to draft Miller 51st overall in 2018. He has one year, $1.7 million left on his contract.