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Miller expects to be ready in April

In the fourth of a nine-part series, takes an in-depth look at the Bears' tight end position heading into the 2017 offseason.

Zach Miller picked up in 2016 where he left off during a breakout 2015 campaign before a broken right foot sustained in a Week 11 loss to the Giants ended his season.


Bears tight end Zach Miller expects to be able to return by the time the team starts its offseason program in April.

At the time of the injury, Miller led the Bears with 47 receptions for a career-high 486 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. The converted college quarterback had three catches for 61 yards and one TD in the first half against the Giants before getting hurt.

Miller, who suffered a similar injury to his left foot in a 2014 preseason game with the Bears, said this week on the team's All-Access radio show that he expects to be able to return by the time the team starts its offseason program in April.

"Everything's going according to plan, ahead of schedule," Miller said. "I've been through this exact rehab schedule before. So I know what it entails and I've been able to bounce back and play at a high level, so I'm comfortable with that. We've just got to put in the time, put in the work, and when it's time to get back in April and as we move through the OTAs I'll just build on that and work towards getting ready for training camp."

Miller emerged in 2015 after missing the previous three full seasons, catching 34 passes for 439 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns in 15 games.

After appearing in 33 contests with five starts with the Jaguars from 2009-11, he spent the 2012 season on injured reserve with the Jaguars, failed to make the Buccaneers roster in 2013 and landed on injured reserve again with the Bears in 2014.

Miller traveled a unique path to the NFL even before he was bitten by the injury bug. A quarterback at Nebraska-Omaha, he was immediately converted to tight end after being selected by the Jaguars in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. His only experience at his new position in college came in the Cactus Bowl, a Division II all-star game.

The Bears are relatively thin at tight end behind Miller, though second-year pro Daniel Brown showed promise late in the 2016 season, catching 16 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown after being claimed off waivers from the Ravens Oct. 24.

Veteran Logan Paulsen provided leadership and blocking in the run game, but he caught only three passes for 15 yards and drew a couple of very costly penalties.

The Bears remain high on young tight ends MyCole Pruitt, who they signed off the Vikings practice squad last Dec. 14; and Ben Braunecker, who caught four passes for 41 yards in 13 games as an undrafted rookie from Harvard.

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