General Manager Ryan Pace made a number of moves to help the Bears field the most exciting and competitive roster in his tenure. The draft day trade with the New England Patriots that landed the 51st overall selection was used to bring in Anthony Miller, the competitive Wide Receiver from Memphis. Our draft guru, EJ Snyder, had Miller as his #3 WR in the draft and pegged him as “the best possible fit” for Matt Nagy’s offense and a perfect complement to the free agent acquisitions of Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel. He brings an energy and passion to the field and I was fortunate to get a few minutes with him to talk about his shoulder, his role in the offense, and where he sees this team headed in the future.
Jeff Berckes: Anthony, I understand you’re out in Los Angeles working with Panini trading cards right now. What’s going on out there and what have you been up to?
Anthony Miller: Panini has some cool events going on. A lot of the guys are just kickin’ it, rookies from this class. We’ve done a lot of card signing. It’s just a good time out here. I’ve been hanging out with Calvin Ridley, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, DJ Moore and a few other guys.
JB: I’ll have to get one of those for my collection! First thing’s first – how’s the shoulder? Are you looking at a surgical repair and what kind of recovery timeline are you looking at?
AM: It’s doing good. I’m actually getting surgery on it in 3 weeks. I’ll be laid up for a minute, looking at 4 or 5 months of recovery. It was definitely a risk playing with it.
(For those of you doing the math, Anthony is expecting to be fully recovered by sometime in the summer.)
JB: I think I can speak for all Bears fans when I say we’re sending positive thoughts for a full recovery and definitely have a lot of respect for being able to play through that injury. Despite missing a few games with that shoulder issue, you were able to have a successful rookie season, leading the team with 7 TDs. How do you see your role in this offense moving forward?
AM: I see it expanding even more than you guys have seen. The reasons I was limited in the offense was one, it took me a little time to get a grasp of it and, two, was because of my shoulder. I wasn’t able to play how I really wanted to. I was just making plays however I could. And so Coach didn’t put a lot of my plate this year and I totally understand that. But it’s going to be way different next year. I’m going to be fully incorporated into the offense.
JB: It seemed like you were taking most of your snaps out of the slot and sharing some of those targets with Trey Burton. Do you see yourself working more on the outside or expanding your role in the slot?
AM: I’m going to be everywhere, man. Inside, outside, doing reverses, everything. Coach Nagy, his offense, you have to know every position on the field because at some point you are going to be at those positions so you just gotta know it.
JB: You mentioned Coach Nagy and I just have to ask, from the outside perspective, it looks like he’s really been able to develop a culture that everyone on the team has bought into. What’s he doing to bring you guys together as a team?
AM: He just lets us be us. He doesn’t try to make the team be something it’s not. He lets us play loose, have a lot of fun out there so that the experience is the best that it can be for us. Basically, he just lets us have fun. I think that’s all a coach needs to do in order for his players to work for him and he works for us.
JB: You were able to make the transition to the NFL quickly – was there a veteran on the team that took you under their wing and what advice were you given to help that transition?
AM: Most definitely. I was blessed to be around a lot of great veterans. Guys like Josh Bellamy, Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel. Guys like that were constantly in my ear each and every day on and off the field telling me what to do, what not to do, just making my rookie year a lot smoother than it could’ve been.
JB: You mentioned Josh Bellamy first and I find that interesting. He seems to be really well liked by his teammates and serves as one of those “glue guys”. What is it about him that makes him so special to that wide receiver unit?
AM: The thing is, that guy, he’s willing to do anything to help the team win. He’s just like me. He’s relentless, he comes to work every day with a mindset of no matter what is going on, we’re going to get to work no matter what. He’s just a great guy to be around. He brings a lot of great energy to the team.
JB: Going against this Bears defense every week in practice certainly challenges this offense to be better. I know you’re a competitive guy and want to go against the best. What defensive back do you enjoy going against the most in practice because he makes you better?
AM: Yeah, good competition. I like going against Eddie Jackson. He’s considered one of our best defensive players. He had a phenomenal season this year. I wish we could’ve had him in the playoffs. That’s a guy I like going against in practice. We make each other better. Bryce Callahan is a good guy to go against there at practice too. He is definitely a sticky defender, has very good feet and hips. That’s another guy we were missing out on toward the end of the season. A couple of unfortunate injures, we wish we had him out there. He’s a good guy to go against.
JB: You mentioned injuries and the Bears, while overall very healthy, had a few instances where key players missed a couple games – Mack with the ankle, Trubisky with his shoulder issue, you with your shoulder. It never seemed like you guys were rushing back too soon – is that Nagy’s philosophy of trying to keep you guys protected?
AM: Yeah, Coach Nagy didn’t push any of us at any point. If we felt like we could go, we were going to go but we were always smart about it. He would never make too big of a deal out of whether we would go or not. We trust our doctors a lot. The doctors did a great job with the injuries this year. We really didn’t have many injuries though.
JB: What are your feelings on all these special plays that Nagy calls that get defensive guys involved? It seems like everyone is having fun with it - does that help everyone buy in more?
AM: Yeah, that’s what I like about this team. It’s so fun. Coach is willing to do anything to throw a wrench in the game to confuse the other team. He’s very good at that and whatever way he can find to do that, he’s going to do that and his way is throwing defensive guys onto the offense from time to time. We love it; we have a lot of fun with it.
JB: Can we expect you to throw TD pass next season?
AM: Definitely. I had a pass this year, it wasn’t for a TD but I know he’s going to have something for me down the road.
JB: What would you say was your personal highlight from your rookie year?
AM: Man, winning the NFC North Championship, that was crazy, even though I didn’t have any catches that game. Just being in that atmosphere, just being a part of that great win, that great team win, it was awesome man. It was a packed house that night as well.
JB: That’s an awesome answer and I’ll tell you it was a great highlight for Bears fans too. As we head into the long off-season, do you have any message for Bears fans?
AM: Definitely be looking forward for a continuation of last year. I know we didn’t finish a few games that we should have. The games that we did lose, we lost by one point. So, we’re very close to becoming the team that we want to be. I’m confident that we will be that Super Bowl team, if not next year, it’s going to be real soon. We’re bringing that trophy home.
Thank you to Panini for setting up the interview and to Anthony Miller for the time. You can find Anthony on Twitter @AnthonyMiller_3 and I’m found @gridionborn.