By Nate Ulrich Akron Beacon Journal
BEREA, Ohio — Practice came to a screeching halt for the Cleveland Browns on Saturday afternoon when second-year offensive tackle Ryan Miller suffered a concussion that rendered him motionless for a few frightening minutes and left his teammates shaken.
As Miller lay on the turf in the field house, medical personnel immobilized him, strapped him to a backboard and carted him to an ambulance. He was taken to the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus at about 5 p.m. and released about three hours later, the team announced. Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Miller, 24, did not injure his neck.
Miller’s teammates were relieved to hear he’s OK. They knelt and prayed in complete silence when he was tended to on the field for about six minutes.
“We’re not desensitized to it because we’re still human,” outside linebacker Quentin Groves said. “We’re just big men that play a sport called football. But we still have hearts. We still have emotions. We still have feelings. He’s our brother. We look at him as a brother. So whenever we see one our brothers down, we try to get down (on a knee) and say a prayer for him or whatever it is that we need to do for him.
“Anytime your brother goes down it’s scary ‘cause you never know. We play this game so hard, so violent. Any moment, this game could be taken away, and that’s the thing I want guys to learn from this. Cherish the moments while you’re out here. Cherish tying your cleats up. Cherish the smell of the grass. Cherish snapping that chinstrap on because any moment it can be taken away from you.”
The Browns moved practice indoors and closed it to the public because of rain earlier in the day. The team was slated to wear full pads for the first time this training camp, but Chudzinski had the players wear helmets and shoulder pads instead because they were confined to the field house. Chudzinski said the team plans to wear full pads Sunday.
Still, with the players in shoulder pads for the first time this summer, the linemen participated in one-on-one run blocking drills. That’s when Miller was hurt at about 4:39 p.m. It’s not clear who was on the other end of the collision.
“Two helmets kind of hit the wrong way,” Pro Bowl offensive left tackle Joe Thomas said. “It was kind of a freak thing I think.”
Some players and coaches with other position groups continued to conduct drills for a minute or two because they didn’t immediately realize what had unfolded. Groves was among the players who alerted others. The music in the field house stopped, and the players did, too.
Thomas said he thought Miller was briefly knocked unconscious. By 4:45 p.m., Miller was carted off the field. The players then huddled around Chudzinski, and practiced resumed a minute later.
“We got together,” Chudzinski said. “We said a prayer, said we would keep Ryan in our thoughts, and I would give them updates as we got them. We needed to get back to work at that point and focus back on practice.”
Thomas was among the players who admitted it can be hard to keep practicing after witnessing a scene like that.
“Sometimes it can be because there are things more important than football, and your health is obviously one of them, so to see that is always tough,” Thomas said. “You just hope nothing serious happened.”
Chudzinski conceded waiting to hear about Miller’s status was agonizing.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “I was very concerned about him. I went over and gave him a tap when he was going out. At that time he was moving around a little bit, so that was encouraging.”
Browns director of communications Zak Gilbert quickly asked that TV cameras be shut off and that reporters not identify Miller until his family was notified. At about 5:05 p.m., communications coordinator Dan Murphy alerted the media that Miller, who was still unidentified at the time, was “awake, alert, had movement in all four extremities” and had been taken to a local hospital. At about 5:51 p.m., Chudzinski called his players into a huddle to update them on Miller’s condition, and some shouts of joy could be heard.
“Coach gave us word that he is fine, and that’s a good thing,” inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “But those are the challenges and the scares that when you sign up for the game, there’s a possibility of something like that happening. I’ll tell you what, it made everyone realize that at any moment, anything can happen.”
The Browns drafted the 6-foot-7, 320-pound Miller last year in the fifth round (No. 160 overall). Miller, who played at the University of Colorado, spent his rookie season as a backup and has worked with the reserves this offseason.
“He’s a nice guy,” Thomas said. “He’s real easy-going. He’s a hard worker. He’s really kind of a gym-rat type guy, and him and I have become good friends in the last year for sure.”
It’s not clear how long Miller will be sidelined with the concussion. It is clear that the Browns are thankful he appears to be all right.