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'He's With You, but He's Not Really With You' : Rams: Miller's concussion, suffered almost two weeks ago against Saints, still a source of concern.

November 04, 1994|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Last Saturday, while at the University of Oregon to watch his alma mater play, Ram quarterback Chris Miller turned to a friend and said, "Man, I got to hurry up and get on a plane when this game is over. We're playing Denver tomorrow."

Miller was serious. His friend was concerned.

"But you got a bye this week," his friend said.

"Woo, kind of weird," Miller said with a groan. "You know, a concussion has you saying some silly things."

On Oct. 23, Miller hit the back of his head on the artificial turf in the New Orleans Superdome, and although he played on through the first half, the concussion he experienced eventually forced him to the hospital for an overnight stay.

"They told me that when I hit my head on the ground, my brain kind of coiled up and shot forward, hitting the front of my skull and bruising it," Miller said. "That's why I have a lot of pressure on the front of my head and around my temples. It feels like you have a bad head cold, or drank a bottle of tequila and it's the next morning."

Twelve days later, Miller's head is still not right.

"He's a little out of it, to say the least," said Jerome Bettis, Ram running back. "He's with you, but he's really not with you. He's not saying a whole lot, and that's different from what he's normally like.

"I'll tell you, it makes me nervous. Is he going to snap out of it? That's what the question is with me."

Miller walked in and out of the Ram locker room the other day, and cornerback Darryl Henley said Miller had no recollection of doing so.

"I saw him this morning when he walked out of meetings and he just looks like he's kind of walking around," defensive end Fred Stokes said.

Miller said his condition has improved greatly, but he continues to have headaches and cannot watch videotape for extended periods without turning away because of blurred vision.

"After practicing Wednesday, I told the trainers, the coach and the doctor there is no way I could have played today because I was thumping myself on the helmet to see what it felt like and I could tell if I got hit once I'd be useless," Miller said. "Just jogging down the field with my head jarring in the helmet I felt like a mush-head."

Miller is admittedly cautious. Recent news coverage of the retirement of Chicago Bear running back Merril Hoge because of post-concussion syndrome, and his own lingering symptoms, have prompted Miller not to rush back to duty.

"We're not talking an ankle sprain here," Henley said. "I'm sure when Chris drives home he contemplates whether he's going to play again."

Although teammates are concerned about Miller's health, most have their own concussion stories to tell.

"I'm used to them; he's not," linebacker Shane Conlan said. "I'm always hitting, so I guess your brain gets used to it. He's not hitting somebody every play, so he's not used to it. I get about one or two every year.

"I've only been knocked completely out like two or three times, but the others are just little concussions. You hit a running back and you get a little buzz, a little ring and then you're fine. I get headaches, but they go away. The way I play is with my head. That's the way it is. I couldn't play if I couldn't play that way. If it scared me, I'd have to retire, so it doesn't."

Miller said he has had four concussions during his career.

"And this one has stuck with me the longest," he added. "It's bothered my wife, I know, when I've been sitting there mumbling or saying something backward and it makes no sense to her.

"When I return, it will be at the right time. I'm not going to be like (New York Jet wide receiver) Al Toon, (New York Giant linebacker) Harry Carson or Merril Hoge. I don't know where the point is where you say, 'I've had too many,' but I see progress. I'd be lying if I said I haven't been thinking of some of the long-term problems associated with this.

"If I practice Friday and I still don't feel right, believe me, I'll be honest with the doctors. This is not something to take lightly."

The Rams did not wait for Miller's recovery. They decided earlier this week to start Chris Chandler at quarterback against Denver on Sunday in Anaheim Stadium.

Although no one is questioning Miller's head injury, there have been rumblings among players that the team needs a consistent presence at quarterback, someone who might be tougher than Miller, someone who doesn't have a track record of always getting hurt.

"That may be a question," Stokes said. "But I think it's unfair with the situation Miller has. When a guy is labeled with having injury problems, he can't get hurt. If he's hurt he can't even mention it, so then he plays with a injury that is something that is minor that turns into something major. This is something else."

Bettis said such talk is not surprising in the Ram locker room, but that Miller should shrug it off.

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