JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Ventrell Miller spent part of his first practice in more than five months watching from the sideline.
The former Florida standout and fourth-round draft pick by Jacksonville passed his physical but failed to gain clearance for a full workload as the Jaguars opened a two-day rookie minicamp Friday.
“It’s just a precaution for real,” Miller said afterward. “We got a long season ahead of us, more practices. So just trying to ease me in. I think that’s what they trying to do from a medical standpoint. But I feel good, though.”
Miller had surgery in late December to repair a broken bone — a Jones fracture — in his right foot that prevented him from participating at the Senior Bowl, the NFL scouting combine and Florida’s pro day.
The Jaguars still chose him 121st overall, a somewhat surprising move considering they spent first- and third-round picks on inside linebackers Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma in 2022 and have veteran Foye Oluokun under contract for at least two more seasons.
But Jacksonville felt Miller was worth a low-risk gamble even though he missed most of the 2021 season with a torn biceps and played nine games last fall with a broken foot. He said he took weekly pain-numbing shots to stay on the field for the Gators.
“Really just going out with a bang,” he said. “It was my last year, my last year for real. So really trying to get back out there and leave it all on the field was my mindset.”
Miller finished the season with 74 tackles, including 8 1/2 for loss, and was by far Florida’s best defender. He ended his college career with 240 tackles, the kind of production the Jaguars envision translating to the next level.
“When you look at the film when Ventrell’s healthy, he’s a really good football player,” Jaguars assistant general manager Ethan Waugh said. “He’s very instinctive. He’s quick. He can run.
“And then additionally, off the field and in the locker room there at Florida, he’s been a multiple-year captain. He’s a fantastic kid. He has the DNA that we’re looking for in the locker room.”
The Jaguars aren’t sure when Miller will be fully cleared. He's able to run and go through individual drills. But he's not rushing anything else even though he insists his foot finally feels normal after taking it easy for months.
“I’m not going to put a timetable on him,” coach Doug Pederson said. “This is the first time our trainers and doctors have got our hands on him, and we’ll put a plan together beginning this weekend. I know he can do some things. He just can’t do a lot of full-speed work right now so it’s hard to say. I don’t want to put him in a box, either. I just want to let our medical team take over from here.”
Miller has other things on his plate. The 6-foot, 232-pound Lakeland native signed a four-year contract worth roughly $4.6 million Thursday. He was one of 10 rookies who signed with Jacksonville; first-round pick Anton Harrison, second-rounder Brenton Strange and fellow fourth-rounder Tyler Lacy remain unsigned.
Miller will get a signing bonus around $730,000, according to the NFL’s rookie slotting system. He has to wait a couple of weeks for the money to hit in his bank account, enough time for him to consider his first purchase.
“I’ve never got money like that, so I’m ready,” he said, laughing. “I’m ready to get to it.”
Who has dibs? Mom? His grandparents? Maybe his four brothers?
“I should spoil myself first,” he said. “I think spoil myself first and get them on the back end.”