CHICAGO — Bears tight end Zach Miller announced his retirement on Tuesday, more than a year and a half after suffering a catastrophic injury in Week 8 of the 2017 regular season that nearly cost him his left leg.
Miller, 34, was one of Chicago’s most consistent offensive performers from 2015-17, catching 101 passes for 1,161 yards and 11 touchdowns over parts of those three seasons.
Miller entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009, but battled injuries throughout most of his career. Miller landed in Chicago at the tail end of the 2013 season after being cut by the Jags and Buccaneers. The tight end spent the 2014 season on injured reserve before emerging as a key offensive contributor for the Bears in 2015.
The team honored Miller as the Bears’ 2018 Ed Block Courage Award winner last week, and the veteran, who has not played since the leg injury occurred close to 19 months ago, hinted that he planned to make a decision soon about his future.
“There will be a time, probably soon, that we’ll make that decision,” Miller said on April 9. “I haven’t made that decision yet. It’s something we’re exhausting every option we can. 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.”
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Miller was rushed to University Medical Center New Orleans on Oct. 29, 2017 after he dislocated his left knee while making an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone against the New Orleans Saints.
Miller’s leg bent awkwardly on the play, and he stayed down for several minutes until he was taken off the field on a cart.
Officials later ruled that Miller did not maintain possession of the ball, negating a touchdown.
Doctors performed emergency vascular surgery that night to repair a damaged artery in Miller’s left leg that stemmed from the knee dislocation. Miller was hospitalized in New Orleans for eight days before being transported back to Chicago in a medevac jet.
Miller underwent a total of nine surgeries, but was a regular visitor to the Bears’ team facility last season, where he underwent rehabilitation on the leg and assisted whenever possible.
Miller is now able to walk without a noticeable limp, but admitted last week that he still experiences discomfort after he jogs.
As of last week, Miller said the Bears had not discussed any permanent non-football playing role for him moving forward, but given Miller’s popularity among teammates and fans, it would not be a surprise if the organization retained him in some capacity.
“I had a first-class seat throughout all of last year, and in a weird way it was one of my favorite seasons,” Miller said. “Not being able to be on the football field and do the things I love was difficult, but to see that whole thing take place, Coach Matt Nagy coming in and the regime change and everything put together, it was special because now you see the game through a different viewpoint.
“I’d love to do anything and everything I could to stay around this game I love.”