Miller's punt return is forgotten in Rams' latest loss

Friday, December 2, 2011
St. Louis Rams' Nick Miller runs a punt back 88 yards for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

ST. LOUIS -- Nick Miller could have been a hero.

Everyone would have been raving about Miller's electrifying 88-yard return for a score in the first quarter of the Rams' 23-20 loss to Arizona if the St. Louis Rams had been able to make a tackle on Patrick Peterson's NFL record-tying fourth punt return for a touchdown this season.

Miller became the first St. Louis player to return a punt for a touchdown since Dante Hall ran back one 85 yards in a 35-7 loss to Dallas on Sept. 30, 2007. Miller's gallop, which tied for the third longest punt return for a touchdown in franchise history, was one of the few highlights in St. Louis' ninth defeat in 11 games.

"If we don't give up that punt return, everybody would be talking about Nick Miller," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

Instead, Miller's run became an afterthought.

St. Louis Rams' Nick Miller, center, is congratulated by teammates Austin Pettis, left, and Brandon Lloyd after running a punt back 88 yards for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Miller literally emerged from couch potato to special teams standout in a matter of days. He was at home in Arizona last Wednesday, four days before the game, when the injury-plagued Rams called.

"One minute I was laying on the couch, the next minute I'm in the end zone," Miller said. "A crazy week."

Miller got the call at 2 p.m. and was on a plane to St. Louis three hours later.

"It all happened so fast," he said, "But that's football. You've got to be ready when someone calls."

Miller was signed by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He was slowed by a shin injury during his rookie campaign. He finally made his NFL debut Oct. 10, 2010, reeling off a 46-yard punt return in the third quarter of the Raiders' 35-27 win over San Diego. He was cut by Oakland on Oct. 1 of this season and signed by St. Louis six days later. The Rams waived him Oct. 22 but re-signed him last week.

Miller has replaced an ineffective Austin Pettis as the Rams' No. 1 punt returner. Danny Amendola, the Rams' top kickoff and punt returner, suffered a season-ending elbow injury during the first game of the season.

Noteworthy

* Quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive end Chris Long did not practice Thursday. Both are bothered by ankle injuries, and Bradford appeared to be limping. "When he came in this morning, it went backward a little bit," Spagnuolo said. "In an effort to get it forward, we shut him down." A.J. Feeley took the first-team reps in practice, and Spagnuolo said a decision on Bradford's status for Sunday's game at San Francisco will be made today. Long said he was held out of practice as a precautionary measure and plans to play Sunday at San Francisco.

* Punter Donnie Jones and safety Darian Stewart worked out on a limited basis Thursday. Jones is bothered by a sore ankle. Stewart is trying to work through concussion-like symptoms.

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