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It’s (almost) Miller Time in Buffalo

Here’s a look at what we do (and don’t) know about the return of Von Miller

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

It’s officially Miller Time, Bills Mafia. What we don’t know, however, is when it will be Happy Hour in Orchard Park, NY.

In fact, there’s a whole lot we don’t know about what’s going on with Buffalo Bills pass rusher Von Miller, but before we get into that, here’s a quick rundown of the few facts we do know:

  • Miller tore the ACL in his right knee on Thanksgiving Day 2022 while the Bills defeated the Detroit Lions.
  • Miller had his knee repaired on December 6, 2022
  • Miller was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List on August 29, 2023
  • Players on the PUP List to begin the regular season are not eligible to return until after the first four games of the NFL season

So, with Sunday being Buffalo’s fourth game of the 2023 season, Von Miller can be removed from the PUP list on Monday, but here’s where we get to the “we have no idea what’s really going on” part (remember last year and the constant “Tre’Day is Coming” teasers — only we didn’t see Tre’Davious White until exactly one year from his ACL injury?).

So, here’s what we don’t know:

  • If Miller is healthy enough to play football

We haven’t seen Miller with the team since mid-August, and then that was with a variety of tape, full-leg sleeves, and braces — this may, or may not, be a significant factor into why Miller was placed on the PUP List despite all his “I’ll be ready Week 1” claims and his obvious disappointment (although he made it clear that he trusted the Bills’ decision making) in not being on the field in September.

Miller has plenty of training and rehab videos on his social media for us to view if we want, but we haven’t heard his name mentioned by a member of the Bills’ staff since the start of this season. We have no idea how the team feels that the 34 year old is progressing.

  • If the Bills will allow Miller to begin practicing as soon as possible

Just because they can bring Miller back to the team after his mandatory four-week hiatus, doesn’t mean that they have to. By NFL rules, Buffalo has a five-week window in which to get the 13-year veteran back into practice. If they don’t bring him back within those five weeks, he won’t be eligible to return until the 2024 season.

  • When we will see the name Von Miller on an active roster

Whenever the Bills do bring Miller back to practice, they will then officially have 21 days to add his name back to the active roster. That means that the Bills can take three weeks to get Miller “football ready.” Bills general manager Brandon Beane talked about this being one of the factors considered when placing Miller on the PUP list back in August, and Miller echoed Beane’s thoughts. It’s also worth mentioning that in White’s case, Buffalo took every one of their 21 days before adding the All-Pro cornerback to their roster last season. Again, should they not be able to add him to the 53-man roster, Miller would have to sit out the remainder of the season.

Another factor to consider when deciding when to bring him back is that the addition of Miller means the subtraction of someone, as the roster is currently at capacity. So, if the Bills don’t have anyone needing a stint on Injured Reserve (and let’s hope they don’t), that means someone has to go. Buffalo’s defense is among the best in the NFL through three games — Miller will undoubtedly make them even better — but deciding who no longer gets a game day paycheck is going to be a hard decision when the newly revamped unit is running as efficiently as it has been under the tutelage of head-coach-slash-defensive-coordinator Sean McDermott.

  • When we will see Miller in a Bills uniform

Just because they add him to the active roster, doesn’t mean he can’t be a healthy scratch on game day. NFL teams carry 53 players on their active rosters but are only allowed to dress 48 of them on game day. That means five guys are on the sidelines in their street clothes. In White’s case last season, he was a healthy scratch for two weeks before getting limited playing time on Thanksgiving Day.

Before you get all judgmental, these are just the facts as we (don’t) know them. Here’s what I think we will see:

  • The Bills will open Miller’s 21-day practice window this week.

Miller’s knee was medically cleared back in August. It was “other” stuff that landed him on the PUP List (remember the sleeve on his leg that I mentioned earlier). The team just felt he wasn’t “football” ready and a few more weeks working on the supporting cast of muscles around his knees would benefit him. We’ve seen his videos — he’s been doing what he was told to do.

  • The Bills will add him back to the roster somewhere between weeks 5 and 7, and, unlike White, he will be active — although maybe limited — on game days right away.

Happy Hour. That’s what we are looking for, and most bars offer that between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., so why not roll with that in the terms of the NFL season too?

Seriously though, Week 5 may be too soon. With the Bills playing their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 8 in London, that’s a lot of travel making for a limited amount of practice time. No doubt, Miller is up-to-speed on the defensive playbook (he’s a veteran and a smart one at that), but is he up-to-speed on the field, with teammates, and pads?

Then again, London is a grass field — which would be the best surface to get some (maybe limited) reps in.

Week 6 against the struggling New York Giants would let the Bills ease Miller back into the game on a snap count. The downside to playing Miller this week would again be practice time. With losing a day due to travel plus some jet lag, the team’s practices could take an extra day to ramp up – a day that Miller probably needs. But this is also the week that Miller said he would be back by (let’s be honest though, he has said a lot of stuff in the last year that never came to pass — I don’t think anyone is listening to him at this point).

Week 7 against the New England Patriots gives Miller the most opportunity to practice. It’s also how they brought White back. But Miller isn’t White, and he isn’t struggling with the mental aspect of being back on the field. I think the only reason the Bills would wait this long to bring Miller back would be if the travel surrounding the London game alters their practice schedule so much that they don’t have the opportunity to see everything they want from him until this week.

So, like when we were waiting for “Tre’Day” last year, it’s time to start a Watch Party as we wait for Miller Time to be available and Happy Hour to commence.