Miller hopeful of playing Sunday against Vikings
Englewood — (AP) — Rookie pass-rusher Von Miller is itching to give a helping hand to the Denver Broncos’ playoff push even if that means playing with a cumbersome cast protecting his surgically repaired right thumb.
“I’ve just got to block it out,” Miller said. “I went in there on a couple plays today and stuck it in there. It didn’t feel too bad. I’m feeling pretty confident about everything.”
Miller is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at Minnesota after practicing Friday for the first time this week. He wore a hard cast that goes up to his forearm and covers his thumb but leaves his fingers exposed.
“It’s different, but it’s still not going to change the way I play the game,” Miller said. “I’m still going to have fanatical effort and pursuit to the ball.”
He downplayed any effect it might have on his tackling: “It’s not bad, and I put my body on guys. I don’t like to drag them down. It’s different but it’s not a huge difference.”
Coach John Fox said Miller’s status will be determined before kickoff, same with that of receiver-returner Eddie Royal (toe). Both got hurt at San Diego last weekend.
Miller, who was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Month after helping the Broncos go 4-0 in November for the first time since 2000, got hurt in the fourth quarter but stayed in after getting taped up and helped the Broncos win in overtime to complete an unprecedented November road sweep of their AFC West rivals.
“Adrenaline was pumping and the game was so close I didn’t even let it factor into whether I was going to play or not,” Miller said. “I wanted to go out there in overtime. I hurt it the second (to last) play of regulation, before overtime. I went to overtime and just blocked it out.”
On Monday, Miller told reporters the injury wasn’t serious but he later learned he had torn ligaments and needed surgery.
“It was surprising. I haven’t really had too many injuries like that,” Miller said. “It’s part of the game. And you’re going to have to play through injury and pain in this game. And if I have to go out there and play in pain, that’s what I’ll do.”
He missed the first two days of workouts this week, leading to speculation the Broncos might choose to play it safe with their prized rookie with games against Chicago and New England on tap.
If they sit Miller on Sunday, veteran linebacker Mario Haggan will take his place.
“I have full faith in our athletic training staff,” Miller said. “I’ve taken all the steps possible to play in this game. I’m still preparing. I’ve done everything all this week like I was. It’s up to the training staff. I know they have my best interests at heart.”
His teammates want him on the field. Miller and Elvis Dumervil make up a potent 1-2 pass rushing duo, but Dumervil won’t be as effective without his sidekick commanding extra attention.
“It’s very important,” co-captain Champ Bailey said of Miller’s availability. “He’s a big part of what we do. We do a lot of things for him to make sure he gets his looks. So to have him out there Sunday is huge for us.”
Miller, the former Texas A&M star who was the second overall pick in the draft, has 57 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 21 quarterback hits, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
His 10½ sacks are one shy of Rulon Jones’ team record set in 1980 and four shy of Jevon Kearse’s NFL rookie record set in 1999.
Miller has another reason for wanting to play Sunday: he wants to see how he matches up with Minnesota’s premiere pass rusher, Jared Allen.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Jared Allen and his rodeo sack dance,” Miller said. “It will be disappointing if I can’t go out there and play like he plays.”
Allen said he admires Miller’s game, too.
“That 3-4, kind of hybrid linebacker position fits him well,” Allen said. “He’s athletic enough to get around just about anybody. So, the dude is having a heck of a year.”
Notes: Although Tim Tebow ran 22 times — the most by an NFL QB since 1950 — last week, he came out of it feeling pretty good: “For the most part, I didn’t really get hit too bad in that game at all, maybe one or two times on the sideline,” he said. “I came away feeling great.”