LAKE FOREST.— Fred Miller decided retirement could wait another year, so now he’s back with the Bears.

LAKE FOREST.— Fred Miller decided retirement could wait another year, so now he’s back with the Bears. The veteran offensive tackle decided to stay close to his family and agreed to a one-year contract Wednesday with the team that released him in the offseason. “It wasn’t until early this morning that I made the decision,” Miller said. “I fought with it all the way, just because of what I’m leaving behind at the house, with my family and my kids. This time is short, and I figured I better take the opportunity while I can.” Miller becomes the Bears’ third offensive tackle, a role rookie Kirk Barton filled against Indianapolis last week before getting waived on Wednesday. Miller had a workout with Tampa Bay and discussions with Baltimore, Washington and Houston, but in the end, the decision was whether to play for the Bears or retire. His children are in school in the Chicago suburbs, and he has been coaching his son’s football team, so moving wasn’t an attractive option. Learning a new system would have been difficult, too. “I thought about it until the last minute coming up,” Miller said. “Do I really want to come back out and play and miss my kids playing football? Or do I want to come out and play? I figure I can be a little selfish one more year and then I have the rest of my life.” Teammates and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand sent Miller text messages trying to lure him back as he weighed his options. “I had nothing to do with that, but I’m glad he’s back,” guard Roberto Garza said. Coach Lovie Smith added: “We feel good about getting Fred back. Fred’s been a big part of what we’ve done around here. To get another veteran offensive lineman into the mix is good. We know about Fred. It’s an easy transition for him.” The Bears had been in talks with Miller for about a month after learning first-round draft pick Chris Williams would miss at least the first half of the season while recovering from back surgery. They were willing to wait on Miller because of his familiarity with the system. The durable Miller, entering his 13th year, has started 160 of his last 162 games — 46 with the Bears the past three seasons. He missed one game last year while struggling through right ankle injury that left him at “40 to 50 percent” and ultimately required surgery. That he played at about half strength apparently was news to Smith, who asked, “Dr. Miller told you that?” “I wasn’t aware of those numbers, and we wouldn’t put the guy out there that was that, so I think we can move on from there,” Smith said. Miller said he’s back to “90 percent” after having bone spurs removed in January. Should he have asked for more time off? “That’s kind of hard to say as a football player — that you want to stop playing,” Miller said. “I wanted to play no matter what. If they said I needed to take off, then I would do that. But until then, I will play. That’s just my mentality. So I played.” A fifth-round draft pick by the Rams in 1996, Miller has blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in seven of his 12 NFL seasons with St. Louis, Tennessee and Chicago. He helped the Bears reach the Super Bowl two years ago and played in one with St. Louis. Chicago released him in February to avoid paying a roster bonus, but Miller felt “no animosity at all.” “I know this is a business aspect and they got to do things they think are best for the team,” he said. “I’ve got to do things I think are best for me. There’s definitely no animosity. That’s definitely one of the reasons I came back is we parted on good terms.” ______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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