On Sunday, tight end Zach Miller did not play for the Bears; he had already been put on season-ending injured reserve (SEIR) with a dislocated knee earlier this month and was released from the hospital only last week, after 23 days.
Neither did outside linebacker Leonard Floyd; he had been put on SEIR on Thursday after tearing the medical collateral ligament (MCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right knee, nine days ago.
Also absent on Sunday was former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, now with the Dolphins; he did not recover quickly enough from a concussion suffered sometime in the first half of Miami’s game a week earlier.
Miller, you may remember, was rumored to be in imminent danger of losing his left leg below the knee in the days following his injury. Well, not really. Nor did he dislocate his kneecap, as Sports Illustrated reported last week. It was the entire knee joint, disrupting the relationship between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia).
A common side effect of that injury is a torn popliteal artery, which if not repaired within 4-8 hours, will lead to amputation. Fortunately, Miller had optimal care from beginning to end.
Still, his subsequent hospitalization was prolonged. However, according to a study published in this month’s Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, the length of Miller’s hospital stay was not all that unusual. When a knee dislocation occurs without vascular damage, the average stay is one week. When the popliteal artery requires repair, average time in the hospital exceeds two weeks. And the longer stay is far more costly, an average of more than $130,000 compared to “only” $60,000 when the artery is undamaged.
The meter is not done running. Miller faces significant reconstructive surgery and prolonged rehabilitation.
So does Floyd. In the aftermath of his injury, Bears head coach John Fox oddly said, “It’s good to hear it wasn’t the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).” Really?
According to a study published in July’s Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, career resumption in the NFL after multi-ligament injury is iffy at best. The overall return-to-play rate is 63 percent. When the injury is a complete dislocation — such as Miller’s, RTP drops to 50 percent.
When the ACL is injured along with the PCL and/or the lateral collateral ligament, the RTP rate is slightly better, at 56 percent.
Combined ACL and MCL damage is the most “ideal,” because the RTP rate is 71 percent.
No rate was reported for Floyd’s injury but anytime the PCL is damaged, it is not “good to hear.”
What would be good to hear would be a 2018 contract offer for Miller, who earned $3.1 million in 2017. Given the statistics, don’t count on it.
At least Floyd is able to count on a paycheck for the next two years whether he plays or not. The Bears’ 2016 first-round pick signed a guaranteed, four-year, $15.8 million deal.
Which brings us to Cutler, who has a guaranteed contract of his own of $10 million, just for this year. But after missing one game earlier in the season with multiple fractured ribs and now missing at least one more game with the current concussion, does he still believe it was worth postponing retirement to lead Miami, so far, to a 4-7 record?