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At times over the past four seasons, the 49ers used running back Anthony Dixon in short-yardage situations. But in the 49ers’ biggest regular-season game, fullback Bruce Miller got the call.
Miller twice picked up first downs on third-and-short running plays in a late-season victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Miller had a 2-yard gain on a third-and-1 play on the 49ers’ game-winning, fourth-quarter drive.
But Miller sustained a fractured shoulder blade the next week and was placed on injured reserve. Now, Miller said he is completely healthy and will be ready for the start of the official program on April 21. He's also ready for a role that could include the ball in his hands more than in his first three NFL seasons.
Dixon signed with the Buffalo Bills as a free agent. And Miller on Thursday signed a three-year contract extension with the 49ers through the 2017 season.
Miller gained 13 yards on just seven rushing attempts last season. He was third on the 49ers with a career-high 25 receptions for 243 yards.
“For me," Miller said, "it’s wanting to be a part and (doing) whatever I can to help the offense be successful. So far, it’s been ever-evolving with a little more on my plate. Hopefully, this year we can continue that trend.”
Miller was a two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as an undersized defensive end. But the day before the 2011 draft, he received a phone call from 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman. He was told the 49ers were interested in him as a fullback.
“At that point in time, I was really excited about any opportunity to continue playing and move into the NFL,” Miller said. “I didn’t care if it was offense, defense, special teams, any of that. That was exciting to know I was on their radar and had the possibility of moving out to California and being a Niner.”