Safety Rontez Miles is healthy and hungry, determined to win a spot on the New York Jets' roster. He's also grateful to have the opportunity because he knows he wouldn't be here if it weren't for the quick thinking of trainer John Mellody.
A few days before he was slated to make his 2014 debut last December, Miles suffered what appeared to be a routine calf bruise after colliding with teammate Marcus Williams in practice. It was anything but routine. He quickly developed compartment syndrome, which means blood flow is restricted because of a build-up in pressure. In severe cases, it can result in amputation.
Miles alerted Mellody, who got him to a hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to relieve the pressure. Once he got over the initial disappointment, he realized he was one lucky dude.
"It could've been amputated or the muscle could've been destroyed," Miles said after Wednesday's organized team activities. "It could've been a couple of months or a year or so recovery, and it would've been hard to come back from that."
Miles has been through a lot in his life, so earning a spot on the Jets' practice squad was a huge accomplishment. He did it for the better part of two years, playing in one game late in the 2013 season. Another call-up came last December, but a freakish collision changed that.
Reflecting on the harrowing episode, Miles kept bringing the conversation back to Mellody, who stayed with him in the operating room.
"I owe him a lot, I owe him everything," Miles said. "As soon as he saw it, he knew what it was. He told me, 'If I'm wrong, God bless you. If I'm right, I can save you.' Seeing it that soon knocked off hours of pressure and pain. When he stuck a needle in my leg, blood came squirting out. It was obvious it was packed."
Miles' teammates voted him the Ed Block Courage Award, and he joined the 31 other team winners at the award ceremony in Baltimore. He got a chance to visit underprivileged kids at community centers, reminding him of his own childhood in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
But now there is work to be done, a lot of work. The Jets have a crowded safety position, with Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Antonio Allen. Miles, a physical player with a non-stop motor, won't have an easy time making the team.
"Hey, I can't complain," the always upbeat Miles said. "I'm here and I'm playing football."