Anthony Miller ran a fly pattern out of Chicago, an exit route that didn’t leave him harboring hard feelings toward the Bears.
Instead of dwelling on frustrations that built up in three years after being drafted in the second round, the veteran wide receiver is embracing his fresh start with the Texans.
Traded to the Texans along with a 2022 seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round draft pick the day before players reported to training camp, Miller has a healthy perspective on the change of NFL employers:
It was simply time for both sides to move on.
“On both ends, we just felt like it was best for the team,” Miller said Friday after a rain-soaked training camp practice in Houston. “I’ve had some tension with the (Bears') coaches, tension with upstairs, but they want me to succeed at the end of the day. I hope they have a great season as well. We broke it off with no bad blood and it was very professional.”
Perhaps the final episode that led to the former University of Memphis standout being traded unfolded in the playoffs when Miller lost his temper during a wild-card loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Miller allowed Saints defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson to bait him into punching him. He was ejected from a game when the Bears already had thin numbers at wide receiver.
Miller emphasized that he won’t allow his emotions to bubble over again as he heads into a pivotal season: the final year of his four-year, $5.353 million rookie contract that includes a $1.21 million base salary this season.
“Of course, I regret that,” Miller said. “I let that guy get under my skin to the point where I put hands on him. It’s a new Anthony Miller this year. I’m approaching everything very professional. It’s an important year for me as well. It’s a contract year, but I love football, too. Anything that would take me off the field, I’m not going to do that here.”
Miller was linked to multiple trade rumors throughout the offseason after catching 134 career passes for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns.
After catching seven touchdowns as a rookie, Miller combined for just four touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Miller wasn’t surprised when the Bears moved on.
“I expected it to happen early on, but when it didn’t work out, I set my mind on playing for the Chicago Bears,” Miller said. “Literally, it happened at the last second, the day before camp, honestly. So, I’ve had to learn everything very fast. Everybody here has really helped me out a lot.”
Instead of looking backwards, Miller has set his ambitions on proving himself with the Texans as he seeks a potentially lucrative second contract.
“That’s exactly what it is: a fresh start, a new opportunity for me to show what I can do and the coaches believe in what I can do 100 percent,” Miller said. “That’s all I want is an opportunity and that’s what they’re giving me.”
So far at training camp, Miller has displayed explosiveness, sharp route running skills and soft hands as he competes with Keke Coutee to be the Texans’ primary slot wide receiver after the team traded Randall Cobb to the Green Bay Packers.
“Boy, he can play,” said wide receiver Brandin Cooks, the Texans’ top downfield target. “He's shifty. Looking at him out here, he's built, and he can make a guy miss. He can stick his foot in the ground, and you love to see it.
“His mentality, it's nasty. He's a guy that he may be small but, at the end of the day, he got such a big chip on his shoulder.”
What’s helped Miller, 26, in his transition to Houston is advice from veteran starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After catching 49 passes for 485 yards and two touchdowns last season, Miller is hoping his collaboration with Taylor is going to generate big numbers.
“He’s helping me out a lot,” Miller said. “He’s a seasoned veteran. He knows the ins and outs of this offense. He tells me where he wants me to be when he throws me the ball and he’s just an amazing quarterback.
“I’m in the slot. I’ve got a lot of intermediate and shorter routes. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we sync up well. I can do everything. I can’t tell you one thing I can’t do.”
Although both players are vying for the same role, Miller and Coutee have been supportive of each other.
“We’ve been great teammates so far,” Miller said. “Every time he makes a play I’m happy for him and every time I make a play he’s happy for me. So, we’re just here to help each other.”
“If you watch us it’s really similar. Both of us are sudden in our moves and really quick. We know how to work in tight spaces. Both of us have really good hands.”
Toward the end of his first press conference since joining the Texans, Miller was handed his 1-year-old son, Anthony.
“This is my guy,” Miller said as his son shyly declined his invitation to talk. “His name is Anthony, too. This is more than my motivation right here.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.