First the Bears showed they didn’t need Fred Miller. Then they brought him back for insurance.

First the Bears showed they didn’t need Fred Miller. Then they brought him back for insurance.

Chicago’s offensive line was supposed to be in disarray after losing No. 1 draft pick Chris Williams (back) for at least half the season. Instead, the Bears ran for 183 yards – 47 more than in any game last year – against the NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense in 2007 in a 29-13 win over the Colts.

“That’s what this offense is centered around, running the football,” quarterback Kyle Orton said. “We will need to run the football well from week to week.”

Miller had been a big part of the Bears’ running game the previous three years, when he started 46 games at right tackle. But the 13-year veteran with 164 career starts said he was only “40 to 50 percent healthy” last year.

That didn’t go over well with coach Lovie Smith.

“Dr. Miller told you that?” Smith said. “We wouldn’t put a guy out there who was that hurt.”

Miller was bothered by an ankle injury last year and had it operated on over the winter.

The Bears let him go after a poor year for the entire offensive line – Chicago averaged 3.1 yards per rush, its lowest average in 37 years – but had been talking to Miller since doctors operated on Williams a month ago.

Miller talked to five teams and worked out with Tampa Bay, but decided to return to the Bears for what’s reported to be the NFL veteran minimum salary.

“It’s good to have Big Fred back,” Orton said.

Big Fred agreed.

“It feels good to be back with all your teammates and see what it’s like to go out and get a sweat going and get banging on people again,” Miller said.

Miller said returning to Chicago was always his first choice, both for practical and sentimental reasons.

“Instead of learning a totally new system, it’s easy to come back to something you are familiar with,” he said. “Plus, it’s all my old teammates.”

The Bears waived rookie right tackle Kirk Barton, a seventh-round draft pick out of Ohio State, to make room for Miller and put Barton on the practice squad. Miller will be the primary backup behind starting tackles John Tait and John St. Clair.

“It’s just like old times having him back in the locker room,” St. Clair said. “He’s been playing 13 years. Playing that long, he knows the system. I think he will be ready at any time.”

“It’s like he never left,” right tackle Roberto Garza said. “It’s big having him back.”

Miller said he watched the Bears beat the Colts on Sunday night and that several players and coaches text messaged him after the game. That helped entice him back. He also said his tryout in Tampa convinced him to keep playing.

“I really do miss this,” he said. “I can play. I can go out there and run around and have fun.

“But at the same time, I had a lot of time to spend with my family and my kids and coach their football teams. Now I am going to miss that. That was a really tough decision for me. I thought about it until the last minute coming up here. Do I really want to come back out and play and miss my kids growing up and playing football?

“I figured I can be a little selfish one more year. Then I have the rest of my life to go out and spend time with them.”

Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.