Miller Ready for Playoff Reset

Tim Tebow and Von Miller

Tim Tebow and Von Miller greet each other as practice begins Wednesday. (PHOTO: MAXDENVER.COM)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Von Miller’s only sack since undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb came with a massive club cast encasing his fingers, thumb and forearm. In the three games since removing it in favor of a cast that exposes his fingers, he’s only mustered two tackles and hasn’t notched a sack.

But the type of cast isn’t an issue, Miller says.

“I wore the club (in the 13-10 win over Chicago on Dec. 11) because I felt more comfortable sticking my hand in there, but it’s healed up,” Miller explained Wednesday. “I feel like I don’t need to wear the club; I just need to protect my thumb. It’s just part of the game. Hopefully I won’t have to go through this again.”

This has been a unique week for Miller, who was taken out of Sunday’s 7-3 loss to Kansas City for some plays. He took the decision well.

“I haven’t been the same-type player,” Miller said. “I don’t like to make excuses; I still feel like I can go out there and make those plays, but from a team standpoint, we’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”

“When I’m not out there, I don’t turn away or go sit on the bench or anything; I’m still watching my position; I’m still watching what I should be doing. Mental reps are exactly the same as physical reps.”

Miller held court with reporters for more than 10 minutes at his locker-room stall Wednesday, and for the first time since returning to the lineup, slightly abandoned his insistence that the cast on his right hand was not an excuse for his diminished production.

His head coach, John Fox, has defended Miller’s struggles, explaining on Dec. 26 that the sport was difficult enough with two healthy hands, to say nothing of playing with one at partial strength.

“There’s really not any pain. It’s just a learning curve. That’s just the easiest way to explain it,” said Miller, who will have pins removed from his thumb a few days after the Broncos’ season ends.

Sunday in Denver, Miller’s goal will be to sack Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who categorized his ailing ankle as “five” on a one-to-10 scale during a conference call with Denver-area media.

Bum thumb versus fragile ankle. In the rookie’s eyes, the edge goes to Miller.

“I’m using my whole body. I think I’ve got a little advantage,” Miller said. “I’m going to throw my whole body at him. Hopefully it’s enough to get him down, and if not, I’m going to hold on to him and wait until everyone else can rally to him.”

Assistance is often needed with “Big Ben.” Miller is listed at 245 pounds but hasn’t lifted weights since injuring his thumb against San Diego on Nov. 27, leaving him to focus on resistance-based exercises to maintain his strength. Roethlisberger is listed at 241 pounds, which has always made him difficult for one linebacker or defensive back to take down, but can’t put much weight on his ankle.

Even if Roethlisberger were healthy, defensive end Elvis Dumervil doesn’t see a big issue in bringing him to the ground.

“I don’t look at quarterbacks like they’re tough to bring down,” Dumervil said. “He’s much bigger than me, but it’s about leverage.”

Added Miller: “I mean, it’s huge.  It takes maximum effort.  He’s not going to give up.  So you’ve got to make sure that when you get him, you’ve got him.”

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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