ENGLEWOOD | Von Miller is speeding toward a return with Carolina on his mind.
The Denver Broncos’ star pass rusher told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he’s targeting a Dec. 13 return in Carolina against the Panthers.
That would be three months since Miller underwent surgery on Sept. 11 to repair a dislodged tendon in his left foot.
“If I’m healthy enough to play, I’m going to play,” Miller said. “In my mind, I want to make it back and I want to play and I want to show the world some of the stuff I’ve been working on.”
At 31, Miller appeared primed for a big season after an offseason fueled by a substandard 2019 and a recovery from his battle with COVID-19 in April.
He was buffer than ever and had a terrific training camp. But Miller got hurt on the last play of a practice on Sept. 8 that was moved indoors because of a snowstorm.
The offense was facing fourth-and-5 near the goal line and Miller said he wanted to make a statement with a signature pass rush.
“Because we all know that practice makes perfect,” Miller said. “If you don’t do it at practice, you don’t do it at games.”
He said he side-swiped an offensive lineman with his right hand, went to plant his left foot and went down.
“It felt like somebody had stepped on my ankle,” Miller said. “I took my cleat off. The peroneal tendon was on the left side of my ankle. I knew something was wrong immediately. But I thought it would be something where I would possibly miss a week.”
An MRI revealed the full extent of the injury. He needed surgery and several months of recovery, threatening his 2020 season entirely. A quicker recovery could allow him to return to the field this season, however, because of the league’s amended IR rules on account of the coronavirus that allow an unlimited number of players to be recalled after spending at least three weeks on IR.
Typically, a player needs about four months to recover from the type of injury Miller suffered.
Miller said he’s making extensive progress and was slated to get his cast removed Wednesday, after which he’ll return to the Broncos facility on a more regular basis.
“I’m in the zone — go to rehab every day and then come home and play ‘Call of Duty,’” Miller said. “I stay in that cycle. I want to do everything I can to come back this season.”
Miller spoke with the AP as part of a round of interviews he did promoting USAA’s ‘Salute to Service ‘ sweepstakes for military members and veterans. The interviews marked Miller’s first public comments since he got hurt last month.
Miller said his goal is to return this season regardless of Denver’s record.
They’ve stumbled to a 1-3 start without him and have suffered a slew of other injuries to veterans including Jurrell Casey (biceps) and Courtland Sutton (ACL).
Tom Brady said he missed playing against Miller two weeks ago when the Buccaneers visited Denver.
“It’s tough to see guys miss football seasons, (especially) guys in the prime of their career,” Brady said. “He’s as good of a player as there is on the defensive side of the ball in NFL history. He’s just exceptional in every way.”
The feeling is mutual, said Miller, who’s gotten to know Brady well over the years at Pro Bowls and Kentucky Derbies.
“I’ve always been a fan of Tom Brady,” Miller said. “I’ve always felt people that hated him, just hated winning. There’s no other reason to dislike Tom Brady other than he wins. That’s just a lame reason not to like somebody. He’s done it the right way on and off the football field.”
One thing Miller didn’t want to discuss was his contract situation. He’s due $18 million in 2021, the final year of the six-year, $114.1 million deal he signed after winning Super Bowl MVP honors.
This is the second big injury Miller has suffered since being drafted with the second overall pick out of Texas A&M in 2011. He tore his right ACL at Houston on Dec. 22, 2013, and missed the Broncos’ loss to Seattle in the 2014 Super Bowl.
If Miller does return on Dec. 13 he’ll get four games in, at Carolina and the Chargers on the road and against Buffalo and Las Vegas at home.
“If it’s before that, cool. If it’s after that, cool,” Miller said. ”I just think with my mindset and the way I work and the way I heal, there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be able to come back and play. That’s regardless of whether the Broncos make the playoffs or not.”