Lamar Miller entered unrestricted free agency on March 18, and then the big wait began. Coming off a season lost due to a knee injury suffered in preseason, the veteran running back remained unsigned for almost five months before the most successful organization in the league came knocking: the New England Patriots wanted to bring Miller on board, and in mid-August the two sides came to an agreement on a one-year pact.
The Patriots and Miller joining forces made sense for both. New England had lost fellow running back Brandon Bolden to the Coronavirus opt-out just two weeks earlier, while Miller was finally getting another shot at showing that he can still be a serviceable player in the NFL.
Nonetheless, Miller’s decision to sign with the team came down to one key factor: winning.
“I just felt like it was a great organization,” he said during a media conference call on Tuesday. “I’ve been playing them every year since I’ve been with the other teams that I played at. I just know they’re a winning organization. Bill O’Brien, he came from the Patriots so the offense was pretty much similar. I just felt like coming in late into training camp would carry over to just coming here. It’s a winning organization, so that’s why I came here.”
When Miller arrived in New England, he was unable to contribute immediately. Still rehabbing from the ACL and MCL injuries he suffered almost a year earlier, the Patriots moved him to their physically unable to perform list (PUP) immediately after the signing was made official. The 29-year-old went on to spend 17 days on the list before returning to practice on Monday and being reactivated to the active roster again.
Miller may have opened his stint with the Patriots on PUP, but he still was able to get a first impression of the organization. Acknowledging that the experience has been a “different” one for him so far, he spoke about his first couple of weeks with the team during his media call.
“I’ve been in the league for eight years and you can see why they’re a winning organization. They work, they do a lot of things differently, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” he said. What exactly are they doing differently, though? “I’d say the conditioning part. Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve never ran that much. It was just different for me. They make sure you’re in top, great shape. That’s something I haven’t experienced.”
Before arriving in New England, Miller spent time with two other organizations the Patriots are familiar with. He started his career as a member of the Miami Dolphins between 2012 and 2015, appearing in 61 games and establishing himself as a solid dual-threat back.
After four years in Miami, Miller decided to take his talents to the Houston Texans in 2016. Serving as the team’s lead back, he became a pivotal piece of head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense before his aforementioned knee injury effectively ended his tenure with the club last summer: Miller led the club in every major rushing category up until that point while appearing in 47 combined regular season and playoff games as a Texan.
As a Patriot now, he is adding some new experiences despite already entering the ninth year of his professional career.
“Coming in here, once they put me through the conditioning stuff, that was something different for me,” he said.
What could also be different for him in New England is his role. With the exception of his rookie season, Miller always headed towards the regular season as his respective team’s number one running back. The Patriots are known for using a more rotational approach, however, which means that the former fourth-round draft pick will have to compete for playing time against other running backs under contract — in particular Sony Michel, Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead.
Miller only has a few days to prove his value and show that he can still be a quality back in this league alongside Michel and company, or else another unfamiliar experience could come his way: getting released.
That said, the Patriots did see something in Miller when they signed him, and it would not be a surprise if they gave him a chance beyond just a few days worth of practices.