Jan. 19, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVERAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEOPaul GutierrezCSNCalifornia.com
Whathad been a year of pain and frustration for Zach Miller has turned intoone of success and recognition more than two weeks after the seasonfinale.Imagine how much more productive the Raiders tight end would have beenhad he not had to deal with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, orbeen hobbled with an injured leg?Miller was officially added to the AFCs Pro Bowl roster this afternoonafter initially being a first alternate and will join Raiderscornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler in Hawaii (defensive tackle Richard Seymour was also voted in but had to pull out due to his nagging hamstring injury). RELATED: Seymour out for Pro BowlSan Diego tight end Antonio Gates was forced to withdraw from the Jan.30 game due to injury, also plantar fasciitis, opening the door forMiller. Jacksonvilles Marcedes Lewis is the only other tight end on the AFC roster.
I was hoping but there was no official word so when coach (Hue)Jackson called, it was a relief, Miller said in a phone interview fromhis Bay Area home.When I came in the NFL one of my goals right away was to get to thePro Bowl. Its one of those achievements that really mean something.Gates was put on the Chargers season-ending Injured Reserve list on Dec. 30, so Miller sort of saw the honor coming.It would be great, Miller said that day. Its always been a goal ofmine. Im just happy that I was still voted as high as I was, eventhough I was playing through a lot of injury, missing a lot of timewith the torn plantar fascia.With the injuries this year and missing time, I feel like I ended up with a pretty good season.Despite missing one game and being limited most of the seasons secondhalf, Oaklands second-round draft pick in 2007 out of Arizona Stateled the Raiders in receptions (60 for 685 yards and a career-high fivetouchdowns) for the third straight season.
RELATED: Pro Bowl provides silver lining for Raiders starsThe 6-feet-5, 255-pound Miller was a Pro Bowl alternate last year, butcircumstances did not allow him to play in the game, held in SouthFlorida the week before the Super Bowl.The game is back in Hawaii, where its been every year but one since 1980.Miller has been to the Islands once before, when his ASU team played inthe 2006 Hawaii Bowl. It was there that his then-roommate, Sun Deviloffensive lineman Brandon Rodd, took him surfing for the first time.Rodd grew up near Pearl Harbor.Miller will have more time to experience the local flavor this timearound and has already picked the brains of Asomugha and Lechler aboutPro Bowl week.They talk about it and how cool of an experience it is, Miller said.Once you make it, youre established in the NFL and guys recognizethat. You get a lot of recognition.In four seasons, Millers 226 catches are third-most by a tight end infranchise history. The potential free agent whether he is restrictedor unrestricted depends upon the language in a new collectivebargaining agreement and former player rep to the union has 2,712career receiving yards and 12 TDs.The Raiders also have Pro Bowl alternates in placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and running back Darren McFadden.Guys arent going to vote for guys that are on losing teams, Miller said of the Raiders relative breakthrough season at 8-8.So, just having more success, as we did this year, and well have evenmore in the future, well have even more guys that deserve going to thePro Bowl.What's your take? Email Paul and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.