MILLER’S CA­REER ‘VIR­TU­ALLY’ OVER

Bears tight end needed emer­gency surgery to save his leg af­ter grue­some knee in­jury

Montreal Gazette - - SPORTS - JOHN KRYK JoKryk@post­media.com @JohnKryk

For starters, let’s start with the big news.

Upon grue­somely twist­ing and bend­ing his left knee Sun­day in a man­ner knees are not meant to be twisted and bent, while catch­ing a po­ten­tial touch­down pass at New Or­leans, Zach Miller had to in­stinc­tively know his sea­son was over.

While the dis­lo­cated knee in­jury looked hor­ri­ble on video, it didn’t look limb threat­en­ing. Turns out it was. And prob­a­bly ca­reer end­ing, too.

The Chicago Bears tight end un­der­went an emer­gency op­er­a­tion Sun­day night. Vas­cu­lar sur­geons hur­ried to try to save Miller’s left leg and suc­ceeded.

“Im­me­di­ate eval­u­a­tion from our med­i­cal team on site rushed him to nearby Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter New Or­leans (UMC) for ur­gent vas­cu­lar surgery to re­pair a torn popliteal artery,” the Bears state­ment said.

The popliteal is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the main artery through which the heart pumps blood to the lower leg.

The surgery proved suc­cess­ful, the Bears said, as sur­geons were able to “sta­bi­lize” the in­jury.

“Zach re­mains at UMC, along with Bears med­i­cal per­son­nel, where he will stay un­der fur­ther eval­u­a­tion,” the club said.

Although the club did not pro­vide any ca­reer prog­nos­ti­ca­tion for Miller, for­mer long­time NFL team doc­tor and sur­geon David Chao of­fered the fol­low­ing as­sess­ment about Miller in a col­umn Mon­day on the San Diego Union-Tri­bune web­site: “His med­i­cal is­sues and need for fur­ther surgery is not over, but his NFL ca­reer un­doubt­edly is. A knee dis­lo­ca­tion this se­vere is, for­tu­nately, a rel­a­tively rare oc­cur­rence. And it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to re­turn from.”

Chao sup­ported that as­sess­ment by say­ing Miller’s knee had to be far out of place to tear the popliteal artery, which is be­hind the knee.

“Blood flow needs to be re­stored within hours,” Chao wrote, “and the surgery some­times takes sev­eral hours. Thus, the Bears med­i­cal staff with the co-op­er­a­tion of the Saints doc­tors should be ap­plauded.”

Blood flow not re­stored within six hours can cause per­ma­nent mus­cle dam­age or even am­pu­ta­tion, Chao said. Beyond the short term, Miller still faces a “se­ries of other is­sues and surg­eries,” Chao wrote. They, too, are se­ri­ous.

This is Miller’s sixth year in the NFL — three with the Jack­sonville Jaguars and the past three with the Bears.

TRENDS, NOT CO­IN­CI­DENCES It hap­pened again, so it prob­a­bly will hap­pen again.

1. In his last four games, rookie phe­nom De­shaun Wat­son has thrown 16 touch­downs and com­pleted on av­er­age 64 per cent of his throws for 1,171 yards against five in­ter­cep­tions, giv­ing him a glo­ri­ous passer rat­ing of 116.0. Af­ter rip­ping apart Seat­tle’s proud de­fence for 402 yards pass­ing and a game-high 67 yards rush­ing, it’s clear the Hous­ton Tex­ans starter not only is far and away the most dy­namic rookie quar­ter­back this year, he’s one of the most in­stantly im­pact­ful this cen­tury. Pro Bowl Sea­hawks cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man called Wat­son the best quar­ter­back his team has faced this year.

2. The New Or­leans Saints of­fence ranks first in net yards per pass play (7.7) and first in fewest sacks al­lowed (seven). Think about it. Those two stats seem at odds. How can a team al­low the fewest sacks, but also av­er­age the long­est gains on passes, when the long­est pass plays take the most time to de­velop? Two words: Drew Brees.

3. The Los An­ge­les Rams don’t just have one of the NFL’s best pun­ters in Johnny Hekker. This sea­son they also have the most ac­cu­rate place­kicker and most re­li­ably pow­er­ful kick­off man in Greg Zuer­lein. Of those with a min­i­mum of 15 field-goal at­tempts this sea­son, the sixth-year pro has made 21 of 22 (95.5 per cent), in­clud­ing all seven from 40-49 yards out and all three from 50 or beyond. Zuer­lein and his un­com­monly strong right leg also lead the NFL in touch­backs on kick­offs with 36. Twenty-three kick­ers don’t even have 20 touch­backs.

HERO Rus­sell Wil­son, QB, Sea­hawks

With the Sea­hawks’ rush­ing at­tack hav­ing another dis­as­trous day and Wat­son torch­ing the Sea­hawks de­fence drive af­ter drive, the sixth-year pro just put his team on his back and threw like crazy in a wild 41-38 de­feat of the vis­it­ing Tex­ans. Wil­son threw for a ca­reer-high — and NFL sea­son-high — 452 yards as part of his four-TD per­for­mance. His pre­vi­ous per­sonal-best yardage to­tal came just last month in a loss at Ten­nessee (373). More than that, with just over a minute re­main­ing, Wil­son drove the Sea­hawks 85 yards in three plays for the win­ning TD — a 48-yard com­ple­tion to Paul Richard­son, a 19-yarder to Tyler Lock­ett and an 18-yard screamer to tight end Jimmy Gra­ham for the win­ning score with 21 sec­onds left.

ZERO Ndamukong Suh, DL, Dol­phins

When tem­pers flare, Suh seems in­ca­pable of avoid­ing the fray to do the stu­pid­est thing. Lat­est ex­am­ple? Last Thurs­day night, when dur­ing a mini-melee in Bal­ti­more’s 40-0 win, Suh briefly choked Ravens QB Ryan Mal­lett. Re­ports said the NFL won’t sus­pend Suh. Not that it would have any de­ter­ring ef­fect. Mal­lett got the last laugh, post­ing to In­sta­gram: “I guess you could say we stran­gled” Suh and the Dol­phins.

STOCK UP Carolina Panthers de­fence

Af­ter hold­ing their first two foes with­out a touch­down (San Fran­cisco and Buf­falo), the Panthers strug­gled for four weeks. Un­der­stand­able, con­sid­er­ing they faced three of the NFL’s top of­fences over that stretch: New Or­leans, New Eng­land and Philadel­phia. Then a week ago the Panthers didn’t al­low an of­fen­sive touch­down in a fluke loss at Chicago, then on Sun­day held Tampa Bay to just a field goal in a 17-3 road vic­tory. The Panthers de­fence is back on track. Four games of the first half of the sea­son with­out al­low­ing an of­fen­sive touch­down. Mighty im­pres­sive.

STOCK DOWN Jim Bob Cooter, Lions of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor

Since tak­ing the reins of the Detroit at­tack at about mid­sea­son in 2015, Cooter in­stantly started get­ting the best out of QB Matthew Stafford. He might still be do­ing so, but the Lions’ in­abil­ity to score in the red zone has be­come chronic. How does a team roll up 482 yards of of­fence against Pitts­burgh’s stout de­fence, in­clud­ing 423 through the air from Stafford, yet fail to score a touch­down? The Lions lost at home Sun­day to the Steel­ers 20-15 be­cause Detroit failed so badly in the red zone.

EX­PORTS, EH? Eye on Canada-con­nected NFLers

Ty­rone Craw­ford of Wind­sor, Ont., had a mon­ster game for the Dal­las Cow­boys in their 33-19 win at Wash­ing­ton. On top of reg­is­ter­ing a sack, four QB hits, a forced fum­ble and three tack­les, the sixth-year DE made the game-turn­ing play on spe­cial teams late in the sec­ond quar­ter with Wash­ing­ton up 13-7 and at­tempt­ing a 36-yard field goal. Craw­ford blocked the kick and team­mate Or­lando Scan­drick picked it up and raced 86 yards to the Red­skins’ two-yard line. Two plays later, Ezekiel El­liott ran in for a Dal­las TD and the Cow­boys never trailed again.

CHRIS GRAYTHEN/GETTY IM­AGES

Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller is carted off the field af­ter sus­tain­ing a se­vere knee in­jury Sun­day against the New Or­leans Saints. Miller’s popliteal artery was sev­ered in the process and his re­turn to the NFL is “vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble,” says sur­geon David Chao.

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