ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)Some things never get old for Von Miller, even at the age of 34, and a month late from opening his 13th NFL season.
Miller, the Buffalo Bills’ top pass rusher, had yet to pull on his pads and helmet to practice for the first time in over 10 months on Wednesday when he began experiencing a familiar – and welcome – mix of nerves and anticipation.
“When I stepped into the film room today and was watching film on the Jaguars, my heart was beating like it was a game. I still got butterflies,” he said. “It felt like the first day of training camp for me, and that was a good thing. That’s how I want to feel.”
Miller tore a ligament and sustained cartilage damage in his right knee during a win at Detroit last Thanksgiving Day. He was a limited participant Wednesday in his first practice since surgery. The only thing Miller felt holding him back was him accepting team doctors’ advice to not rush his recovery.
Eager as the NFL’s active leader in sacks is to play Sunday, when Buffalo (3-1) faces Jacksonville at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Miller is fine if gets one or two more weeks to work into game shape.
He’d rather be fresh and healthy for later in the season. And, Miller added, what’s the point of rushing back when the Bills’ defense is humming without him?
“It not a time to be macho man right now,” Miller said. “I just want to get back in the mix and get in the flow and get in a rhythm. If they feel like the time is now, then I’ll do it. If they feel like they want to wait a week, wait two weeks, then I’ll do that, too. I don’t have no pride in this thing.”
Under NFL rules, Miller opened a three-week window in which he’s allowed to practice before he’s required to be activated or returned to the injured list.
Miller’s pending return – Buffalo hosts the New York Giants on Oct. 15 and then plays at New England the following week – will be welcome for a three-time defending AFC East champion that once again has Super Bowl aspirations.
Since a season-opening loss to the New York Jets, Buffalo has won three straight by outscoring its opponents by a combined margin of 123-33, including a 48-20 rout of division rival Miami last Sunday.
The Josh Allen-led offense has combined to score 14 touchdowns on its past 27 possessions not ending a half or game. The defense has allowed an NFL-low 55 points and its 16 sacks are tied for the league lead.
Whatever sag the defense experienced after Miller was sidelined last season has not carried over into this year on a unit that added edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who leads Buffalo with 3 1/2 sacks.
“I’m walking into a great situation here. I don’t have to do too much. I just got to come in and be me,” said Miller, who signed with Buffalo in March 2022 after winning his second career Super Bowl, this time with the Rams. “I don’t want to come in here and mess the flow of stuff just to force me in there.”
Miller’s influence has already been felt on the sideline, where he’s played a role mentoring teammates. And they can’t wait to welcome Miller back on the field.
“I’m as confident in this group as I’ve been in my career,” edge rusher Greg Rousseau said. “And it’s only going to get more scary when we got Von back.”
Miller’s return offsets a major blow the Bills experienced this week. Cornerback Tre’Davious White will miss the rest of the season after tearing his right Achilles tendon on Sunday.
Dane Jackson is expected to step in and start opposite Christian Benford. White’s injury opens the door for Kaiir Elam to play a role after the 2022 first-round draft pick was a healthy inactive through the first four weeks of the season.
White’s loss was immeasurable to defensive coach Eric Washington, even though the Bills spent the first 11 weeks of last season without White, who was recovering from a right knee injury.
“There’s not necessarily a benefit to playing without Tre’ White. What Tre’ provides us is not something that you can compare and contrast,” Washington said. “We expect those guys to step in and to play to the best of their ability … and understand how they need to succeed with their own skillset and mindset.”
At the same time, Washington referred to Miller as being “an integral factor” in Buffalo’s ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks with a four-man rush.
“Any time Von Miller is on the field, you have to pay attention to him. He’s a person that’s a tough out,” Washington said. “We look forward to integrating him back into what we’re doing.”
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