‘Grind’ and grunts: How Bears WR Anthony Miller is already exuding attitude

When wide receiver Anthony Miller first met the player he fashioned his game around, he couldn’t believe Steve Smith knew he existed.

The two talked at the NFL Scouting Combine, where the Memphis alum was conducting interviews but not performing drills because of a fracture in his right foot.

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“He knew a lot about my game, and it was actually kind of crazy,” Miller, drafted in the second round by the Bears, said before the rookie minicamp practice Saturday. “I never thought a guy like that would be watching a guy like me, but he did. And he gave me a few pointers, and I just soaked it all in.”

The Bears drafted Anthony Miller in the second round. (Getty Images)

What did Smith share?

“I can’t tell you all that he told me, but he just told me I’m a great player; he likes the way that I play,” Miller said. “He reminds me of myself a little bit in the way that I play, kind of: intense with sort of an attitude.”

Like Smith, the 5-11 Miller’s physicality belies his size.

“I feel like the game’s not all finesse,” Miller said. “You’ve got to stick your nose in there sometimes, you know what I mean? So you can’t be a pretty boy.”

Coach Matt Nagy has noticed Miller’s attitude during rookie minicamp. He has been limited to individual drills in the wake of his foot injury — the Bears are being cautious even as Miller insists he’s fine — but Nagy can see a violent streak, even in the way he runs his routes against air.

“I don’t hear him grunting,” Nagy said, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if in the middle of his routes there are some grunts in there.”

Miller calls his attitude “the Memphis grind,” a salute to his hometown, where everything must be earned, he says.

“I try to get in the front of every line,” he said. “I try to go as hard as I can every drill. Coach is holding me back a little bit, but that’s fine. . . .

“You have to be a little vocal, but you have to lead by example. Guys aren’t always going to follow your lead if you are continuously dropping balls, if you don’t know the plays at all. . . . So you just have to lead by example on and off the field.”

The biggest challenges in learning Nagy’s offense, at least this early, are knowing where to line up and how route details change depending on the defense. Miller must improve his concentration after dropping too many balls in college, though Nagy believes his large 10∑-inch hands are a benefit.

The attitude is already there.

“You can’t be great without it,” Miller said. “You have to believe in yourself always. You always have to know that you can run that route, make that catch, make any type of play.”

Even during a practice in May, Nagy sees a desire to be great.

“He has a long way to go,” Nagy said. “This is Day 2 for him. But you can see that he’s motivated.”