Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Mind over matter

Despite injuries, Miller has been a valued Patriot

Since he joined the NFL, adversity has rushed at Jim Miller like a tidal wave. Instability? He just joined his sixth NFL team in 10 years. Well, seventh if you count the Frankfurt Galaxy.

Injuries? Don't even bother asking how many surgeries his body has gone through, aging it well beyond his 33 years. He's lost count, but he knows it's about a dozen. In 10 years, he's played in just 37 games, starting 27.

Yeah, the NFL has been cruel to quarterback Jim Miller, offering flinting success before crushing him with another blow. But Miller keeps coming back. This time, he landed with the Patriots, where he hasn't practiced once because of an injury. But he has contributed, with his experience and intellect from 10 hard-knock pro seasons.

Despite not putting on a pair of shoulder pads once this exhibition season, Miller plans on making the squad and contributing at some point. When, exactly, is the question.

"I couldn't even tell you," Miller said. "I'm encouraged the way I'm starting to feel and the way my body is starting to respond. I just want to keep making progress every day."

So far, it's been a long road back from his biggest success, which was followed by the biggest blow.

In 2001, he led the Chicago Bears, which had become a laughingstock, to a fairy tale season. Miller started the season behind Shane Matthews, then emerged to lead the Bears to a 13-3 record and the playoffs.

After the magical 2001 season, injuries wouldn't let him finish 2002. He bruised his knee in the 13th game. Things haven't been the same since.

In March 2002, Miller had surgery to repair his right rotator cuff, the muscle that made his throwing shoulder work. After he was cut by the Bears, he planned on heading to an NFL training camp healthy as ever, strong enough to regain a starting spot.

Then, disaster. An infection had raided his clavicle, the backbone by his rotator cuff. Doctors told him amputation might be an option. His livelihood, the arm that carried him from high school to Michigan State to riches in the NFL, was in jeopardy.

"It's not a good thought," Miller said.

Luckily, the doctors spotted the infection in time. In May 2003, Miller had another operation on his clavicle to destroy the infection that nearly ended his career. He tried to stick with Tampa Bay in training camp, and spent the first two games of the season on the physically unable to perform list.

The Buccaneers cut him and he spent the rest of the year working with JMK, his construction business out of the greater Detroit area.

Miller jumped back into football when New England signed him as an unrestricted free agent in July.

"Jim has been a good addition," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It would be really hard to put a price on that. He has a real good background and can apply it now to what we are doing."

He still hasn't tried on his Patriots helmet, but he's immersed himself in football. In practice, he has acted as a fullback for quarterbacks Tom Brady, Rohan Davey, and Kliff Kingsbury, helping the timing of play-action passes. During the exhibition opener against Philadephia, he helped chart plays on the sideline.

"In the locker room, he fits in very well," Brady said. "Any time you have an older veteran, you think you could learn quite a bit from him."

Miller is learning from Brady, too, how he orchestrates the offense. So when he comes back -- again -- Miller will be better. For now, he's just sharing his experience.

"Over the years, I've learned some things," Miller said. "I've been in a lot of different systems. Just preparing for games, when you have a couple of young quarterbacks that haven't played a lot in the past, you can give them a couple of pointers.

"Physically, I am feeling better. My arm is recovering well. It's been a positive. I'm pretty confident in what I've done. You just try and do everything you can to help out the team."

in today's globe
Super Bowl extras
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives