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Miller ready to trade in golf for shoulder pads

Chris Miller didn’t play very well this weekend … oh, let’s just say it. He stunk.

Miller has played too much golf lately. He’s sick of the bag, the grass, and the little bouncing ball. And he can laugh about it now, because he has an appointment to be back in Colorado next month, to participate in a real sport.

“I played like a dog today,” said Miller, at Sunday’s conclusion of the American Century Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “I had three real good birdie chances over the front nine, and the wheels just came off. I was really shaky.



“My focus over the last couple of months has been on the Denver Broncos,” Miller said. “It’s really nice to be back into it; to have something to do from the month of April on. I’ve been involved in mini-camps and orientation with the Broncos, and it feels great.”

For those out of touch with Miller’s career, his file reads like this: Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the 1987 draft after being named All-Pac 10 quarterback at the University of Oregon in 1996. Threw for more than 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in 1991 for the Falcons, and threw for 2,104 yards and 16 TDs in 13 games for the St. Louis Rams in 1994.




However … five concussions over a 14-month span during the 1994-95 season sent Miller into retirement.

That’s five concussions – two of them rated as severe. In fact, Miller was having problems with memory and speech after the final blow to the head while with the Rams, and two top neurosurgeons recommended that he never play football again.

But now, three years after apparently leaving the game for good, Miller is back. He agreed to terms with the Broncos on April 26 of this year, presumably to vie for the top backup spot behind Bubby Brister. The Broncos also have second-year player Brian Griese and former San Francisco 49er backup Jeff Brohm on their roster.

“I’m so grateful to have the chance to get back into the game,” said Miller. “It was a long road back, and I don’t take my injuries lightly. But the main reason I decided to come back is that I got clearance from the doctors. I’ve been seeing two top guys in Chicago, and they’ve given me the OK to play. As soon as I heard that, I said ‘Let’s go.’

“I feel mentally sharp, physically great, and I’m ready to get going.”

Once Miller got clearance to play, the NFL pounced on him. Seven teams expressed interest, and Miller narrowed it to two (Denver and the Seattle Seahawks).

“But once I discovered that Denver was interested, it was really a slam dunk,” Miller said. “It’s a great, great organization, with great people. They do everything first class. And playing on grass is a plus.

“I love the situation I’m in, even if it means sitting on the bench. I have a chance to work my way in gradually, and maybe that’s for the best.”

With John Elway retired, some observers feel that Miller has a shot at the No. 1 spot for the two-time defending world champions – even though Brister played well in relief of Elway last season.

But for his part, Miller is simply grateful to be anywhere.

“The thing I miss most is the competition,” he said. “When you’re at that level, there’s very few things that can replace it. I do play a lot of basketball in the off-season, and for the past year I’ve felt great. I’ve also been working out in Oregon with the University of Oregon kids, in the gym. It just got to the point where I said, ‘OK, I’m ready.’ “

Miller has been coaching high school football at his alma mater, Sheldon High in Eugene, Ore.

As for golf …

Miller finished the Tahoe tournament tied for 30th, after an 85 during Sunday’s final round left him at 245. That tied him with former Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon.

Miller’s golf game has seen better days. He withdrew after leading the first round of the 1994 Tahoe tournament when his wife, Jennifer, gave birth at Barton Memorial Hospital.

After repeatedly hooking the ball during an opening-round 87, Miller rebounded to score one of the best rounds in harsh conditions Saturday – a 3-over-par 75.

But even if he had won this year’s celebrity event, Miller realizes that the best day playing golf isn’t anywhere near a pro football career.

“I’m just looking forward to that first hit,” Miller said. “The only thing that makes me nervous is that it will be in Australia (the Broncos play their first exhibition game in Sydney, vs. the San Diego Chargers).

“I wonder what it feels like getting knocked silly below the equator? I might not know where I am.”


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