Zach Miller emotional in first Halas Hall appearance since emergency surgery

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller made an emotional return to the team facility on Monday, six weeks after undergoing emergency vascular surgery to save his left leg.

"It was very real," Miller said, when asked about the threat of amputation. "A couple wrong turns away from actually happening. I had a ton of care, a lot of people helping me out through 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 stuff that was starting to die off or anything. We were able to save pretty much everything. So I'm very thankful that happened."

Added Miller: "I remember, before I got into the emergency surgery, 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."

Miller was rushed to University Medical Center New Orleans on Oct. 29 after he dislocated his left knee while making an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone during Chicago's game against the Saints.

Miller's leg bent awkwardly on the play and he stayed down for several minutes until he was taken off the field on a cart.

Officials later ruled that Miller did not maintain possession of the ball, negating a potential touchdown catch.

Doctors performed emergency vascular surgery that night to repair a damaged artery in Miller's left leg that stemmed from the knee dislocation. Miller remained hospitalized in New Orleans for eight days before being transported back to Chicago in a medevac jet.

Miller, whose left leg is immobilized in a brace, was unsure when he'd walk normally again, but was confident that his long-term quality of life will not be affected.

"I haven't really talked about a timeline," Miller said. "When am I going to be able to get off crutches? When do I start walking? When do you get off the brace? I think I'll probably just take all that and rehab as it comes. I haven't asked many questions as far as down-the-road-type things. I'm kind of just taking this day by day, the steps and the process of going through surgery, rehabbing."

"But vascular-wise, artery's as strong if not stronger than it ever was," he added. "... The risk of reinjuring that is the risk that I had of doing it in the first place. I don't know what the percentage is. I don't imagine it's very high."

Miller, 33, was noncommittal about his football career.

"I haven't really thought much of football from now on," Miller said. "You know what I mean? 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."

The eight-year veteran choked up several times on Monday when he detailed the support he received from family, friends, teammates and coaches during the ordeal.

Bears chairman George McCaskey -- one of many members of the organization to visit Miller in the hospital -- traveled back to New Orleans shortly after Miller's emergency procedure to present him with the game ball from the overturned touchdown.

"I was very aware of that whole situation," Miller said. "I remember when he brought it in. I remember taking the picture. I remember everything in between. That guy's been awesome, and that'll be a memory I'll keep forever.

Through it all, Miller -- who was accompanied by his wife, Kristen, on Monday -- has tried to stay upbeat.

"Things could be worse," Miller said. "I've been in a ton of situations that have been far better than this. [After] all of the things that I've had gone on throughout my entire career, I don't think there's a point for me to sit back and think, 'Why me?' If anything, I know that I'll be better when this is done. This ain't the end of my life.

"There's a ton of things that I'll still be able to do, and really everything's been conveyed to me is that I'm going to be completely fine after we get through this. So now it's just grind through this, use this for any amount of positivity you can and carry on because we've got a lot of life left to lead. I'm trying to have as much fun doing that as possible."