Bears tight end Zach Miller underwent successful surgery Sunday night in New Orleans to repair a torn popliteal artery in his left leg he sustained earlier in the day in a loss to the Saints.
Miller dislocated his left knee while catching an apparent 25-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Trubisky that was later reversed to an incomplete pass following a replay review.
Coach John Fox told reporters Monday afternoon that he had spoken to Miller on the phone a few hours earlier and that the tight end “pretty much wanted his touchdown back.”
“He was in good spirits,” Fox said. “Right now the report is they’re obviously going to take a while for it to make sure it remains good, but he’s got good pulse in his lower leg as well as he has good feeling. His foot is warm, which is a good sign. Not that he’s out of the woods by any stretch, but it’s as good as could be expected at this point.”
Asked whether Miller was still in jeopardy of losing part of his leg—a possibility that had been reported earlier—Fox said: “I don’t want to go down that path. I’m not a doctor, I don’t know. I’m not right there, but I think they feel good about where he is right now as it relates to that.”
Fox praised the Bears medical team for quickly diagnosing a vascular issue that required immediate attention. Miller was rushed from the Mercedes Benz Superdome to University Medical Center New Orleans, where he underwent emergency surgery.
Bears tight end Zach Miller going up for a pass against New Orleans moments before hurting his leg.<br> <br>
“Our medical people did a great job as far as getting him there,” Fox said. “They realized the problem immediately. That’s why he was left there in New Orleans. Obviously with any kind of vascular issue you don’t want altitude. You don’t want people flying around. He’ll have to remain there for some time. He won’t be coming back to Chicago any time real soon.”
Fox said that he was speaking to Miller’s wife, Kristen, when the tight end snagged the phone.
“I was actually shocked to hear his voice,” Fox said. “I wasn’t there during the surgery, didn’t know the recovery process. But typical Zach, he was arguing about catch/no catch. But very supportive of the team. Very unselfish. That’s just him and it’s genuine. It’s real, and I just kind of shared that back. He’s got all our love and prayers coming his way. He was basically telling us to hang in there. But that’s him. That’s just the kind of person he is and the kind of teammate he is.”
Miller drew an outpouring of support on social media from Bears teammates, opponents and others who offered their thoughts and prayers to the tight end.
“I’ve gotten calls even from people I know in Jacksonville where he made a stop,” Fox said. “He’s well thought of everywhere he’s been, and rightfully so.”
Miller has suffered serious injuries throughout his NFL career. After appearing in 33 games with the Jaguars from 2009-11, he sat out the next three full seasons primarily due to injuries—including a foot injury he sustained in a 2014 preseason game with the Bears.
Miller finally emerged as a playmaker with the Bears in 2015, catching 34 passes for 439 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns. He followed with 47 receptions for 486 yards and four TDs last year before he broke his foot in a Week 11 loss to the Giants that ended his season.
This year Miller had 20 catches for 236 yards and two TDs. The Bears will not only miss the veteran tight end for his on-field contributions but also the intangibles he brings to the locker room as a highly-respected leader.
“He’s just a great dude,” Fox said. “He’s a leader. His teammates look up to him. He’s very, very smart. I call him ‘quality control’ just because he helps people in the heat of battle on the field. Those are the kind of guys you do need and his teammates rally around him and so do coaches.”