An emotional and grateful Zach Miller returned to Halas Hall Monday for the first time since he suffered a devastating knee injury Oct. 29 against the Saints in New Orleans.
“It was good to see everybody,” Miller told reporters. “It just felt good to be back. There are a lot of people I still haven’t seen that I need to see. But there have been a lot of hugs to go around. It just feels good to be here.”
Miller suffered a dislocated knee and torn popliteal artery while catching an apparent 25-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Trubisky that was later reversed to an incomplete pass following a replay review.
The Bears tight end was rushed to the University Medical Center in New Orleans, where he underwent emergency vascular surgery. Bears doctors and trainers helped save Miller's leg by quickly diagnosing a vascular issue that required immediate attention.
Miller revealed Monday that he has had eight surgeries on his left leg, three in New Orleans and five since returning to Chicago, with the latest procedure last Friday.
“I had a procedure done to relieve some pressure in my leg,” Miller said. “And most of those were required to then close that back up. I’m not sure yet if I’ll need more. We’ll check on some stuff here in the next couple weeks and determine what I need as far as stabilizing that knee. But as far as the artery and everything else, it’s good.”
Miller is just beginning what figures to be a long and arduous rehabilitation process.
“I just started bending it on Friday,” he said. “That hurt. I’m good, though. I’m up to probably 100 degrees of range already. So we’re working on it.”
Miller is beyond grateful to the doctors who acted quickly to save his leg.
“Before I got into the emergency surgery,” Miller said, “the last thing I was telling the doctors was, ‘please save my leg’ because I knew that something wasn’t quite right just in the way my leg was feeling and the way it was filling up. I knew we had issues.
“[Amputation] was very real; a couple wrong turns away from actually happening. I had a ton of care, a lot of people helping me out throughout that entire process. But we were a couple minutes away from having that be real. Thankfully, we were able to avoid it and we didn’t really get into where I had that stuff that was starting to die off or anything. We were able to save pretty much everything, so I’m very thankful that happened.”
Miller has been overwhelmed by the support he's received. Bears chairman George H. McCaskey and general manager Ryan Pace flew back to New Orleans to visit him. Coach John Fox and his wife, Robin, helped take care of Miller's kids in Chicago, bringing them to the Bears' family Halloween party at Halas Hall.
In addition, Bears fans from all over the world have sent Miller messages and he's been visited by countless relatives, friends and teammates. Among those who came to see him when he was hospitalized in New Orleans were Saints coach Sean Payton and tight ends Cody Fleener, Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui.
“Man, I can’t even explain how that is,” Miller said. “You get videos from people all over the place, which means a lot, but the people that are close to you that have really had your back is the best part.”
Miller is not sure whether he will ever play football again, but his focus right now is solely on recovering from the gruesome injury he suffered in New Orleans.
“I haven’t really thought much about football from now on, you know what I mean?” he said. “I haven’t got to that point. For me right now, it’s just getting this right, getting healed up and when that point comes, make a decision. Do I want to play football? What do you think? I’ve been a football player my whole life. I would love to play football. We’ll cross that road when it’s time.”