Anthony Miller’s toughness is emblematic of what this season’s Chicago Bears team is all about.
In the final week of the regular season, the Chicago Bears played the Minnesota Vikings in a game where they had very little to gain, other than momentum — which was accomplished. It was such a departure from how things have traditionally been done in the National Football League.
However, if Matt Nagy has shown us anything this year, it’s that he’s not going to be a conventional head coach. Whether it was being more transparent in his press conferences, resting his players for the third preseason game, or his move to stay aggressive against the Vikings, things have felt different this year for fans.
One other thing that has felt different about this team to fans is the aura around it. Last year’s team just didn’t have the same swag, confidence, or killer instinct that this year’s squad has demonstrated. There was no “Club Dub,” and they certainly weren’t entering each week’s game with the confidence they were going to dominate their opponent.
This team has captivated fans because of not only their play on the field but the way in which they’ve related to those fans. Chicago has always been a blue collar, bring your lunchpail to work kind of city that values hard work, grit, and perseverance above all else. And that’s exactly what this team has represented since OTAs.
Perhaps no player has embodied those qualities more than Anthony Miller. As a fan, maybe you fell in love with Miller early on in his Bears career. But for others, (yours truly included) it was after reading his post in the Player’s Tribune which was more of an open letter to NFL general managers. In marketing himself to be drafted, he highlighted what had made him successful to that point in his career.
In it, he notes that football is his identity — it’s who he is, and not just what he does. He uses words and phrases like “playing with an edge,” “attacking the game” and “grinding.” Bears fans have witnessed all those traits, and more, on display this season through his play on the field.
What is almost impressive as his on the field performance, is what he has done off the field to get back on it this season. You may recall Miller suffered a shoulder injury in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals. When it happened, thoughts immediately turned to “will he return this season.” Well, the question we should have been asking was “will he return the following week” — because that’s exactly what he did. Amazingly, he played the next week against the Miami Dolphins with a shoulder harness.
In fact, he didn’t miss a game the rest of the season, or any time for that matter, until the Vikings game when his shoulder slipped out again. If you were watching the game, you likely saw the shot of doctors trying to pop it back into place in the tunnel.
While not only painful, the risk of reoccurrence is high once a shoulder is initially dislocated. And in fact, it has “dislocated” multiple times this season. So it would have been understandable if it were announced that Miller was going to miss an extended amount of time.
But that’s just not in his DNA. Therefore, it should not have come as a surprise when it was announced on Thursday that Miller would be active for the Wild Card Playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Consistent with this team’s toughness, Miller never even considered shutting it down for the season. A lesser player on a lesser team might have done so, but not Miller, and certainly not this version of the Monsters of the Midway.
Whatever it is that makes up Anthony Miller is the same stuff that wills him back onto the field after an injury. It’s what has embodied who he is as a person and a football player his whole life and it is rubbing off on the Chicago Bears.