After tearing his ACL on Thanksgiving Day in the 2022 season and beginning the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, defensive end Von Miller returned to the Bills defense in their 25-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
While he was limited as he continues to get into game shape, Miller said that it felt good to jump back into a game for the first time in his 13th season in the NFL, although he has work to do to return to the dominant pass rusher has been throughout his career.
"This is just a starting point," Miller said after the game. "I felt good going out there. I definitely felt like I could have done more, I definitely felt like I wasn't all the way there yet, but I felt like it was a great starting point for me and I'll just continue and most likely – definitely – I'll be able to be the player I've been in the past for sure."
Head coach Sean McDermott said that Miller was on a 'pitch count', which Miller thought was wise given the amount of time he has been away from the game.
"Just dipping my toe in the water. Eventually, I'll be able to swim in the deep end with the big kids," Miller said. "But it felt good just being out there with my guys and being back in the motion, it's definitely something I can build on for sure."
Even though he recorded just one tackle, McDermott was pleased to have the three-time First-Team All-Pro back on the field.
"It's been a long road back for Von and he's worked his tail off to get back here and good to have him back out there with us," McDermott said.
For the other Bills defenders, seeing Miller lineup on the line of scrimmage provided a boost of confidence during a draining game.
"It was huge just seeing 40 line up. He gives a lot of guys confidence, including myself," said safety Michah Hyde. "Obviously, he was out there on a pitch count, you can't just throw him in the fire and Von's going to continue to progress and we're excited for that."
Miller will continue to ramp up as he looks to lead a group of talented defensive linemen, which was without defensive end Greg Rousseau, who was out with a foot injury. Miller was already focused on next week's Sunday Night Football matchup against the New York Giants.
"It was smart, I got enough reps to build on that and get ready for the Giants next week," Miller said.
While the Bills could celebrate the return of one of their defensive stars, 2022 First-Team All-Pro linebacker Matt Milano left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury that could have long term implications on his future availability.
"It was tough. I saw him in the blue tent and I was trying to check him out, looking at it to see if it was just minor," Miller said. "Thoughts and prayers go to Matt Milano for sure."
Milano's knee was caught under a scrum of Bills and Jaguars linemen after quarterback Trevor Lawrence was sacked. Milano was carted off the field and received an X-Ray during the game, according to the NFL Network broadcast.
"It's a terrible part of the game, to get injuries and especially serious injuries, but you just gotta keep moving. I know it sounds cliché, but it's really the only thing that we can do," said left tackle Dion Dawkins in the locker room following the game.
Dorian Williams and Tyrel Dodson saw more game action as a result of Milano's injury, combining for 10 tackles, two passes defensed and a tackle for loss. Milano had played almost every snap in the Bills' four previous games.
"You can talk about next man up, it does hurt for sure," Hyde said. "All-Pro Lano, that's what we call him because he is All-Pro. He's sideline to sideline, making plays on the ball and you've seen it in the first five weeks of the season."
Quarterback Josh Allen, who was drafted by Buffalo a year after Milano, wished the best for Milano, who he called a 'key piece' of the Buffalo defense.
"Not sure what's going on with Matt, prayers going out to him," Allen said. "He makes a lot of plays for us. So, hopefully it's not a crazy, crazy injury and hopefully we can get him back on the field soon."
McDermott did not provide any specifics on Milano's injury but mentioned that it was "not looking good right now."