FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Rontez Miles thought it was just a really bad bruise at first, and then his right leg started aching and swelling like a balloon.
It got to the point where the New York Jets safety could barely walk, so he went to see John Mellody, the team's head athletic trainer - and the news was jarring.
''If I remember his exact words,'' Miles recalled after practice Monday, ''he said, `If I'm right, I could save your leg.'''
It was last December 18, and Miles found out he would be on the team's active roster for the first time all season. He had played in only one other game with the Jets, in his rookie season the previous year, so Miles was amped up. He hit the practice field before just about everyone else and prepared for special teams drills.
One play in, he got tangled up with a teammate, who smacked into his lower right leg.
Just a few hours later, he was in an emergency room having the leg operated on - praying it didn't need to be amputated.
''I was like, `Whoa!' when they told me what was going on,'' Miles said. ''It was mind-blowing.''
Miles had suffered compartment syndrome, which usually results from bleeding or swelling after an injury and causes high pressure in the area. It impedes blood flow, and emergency surgery is sometimes required to relieve the pressure and prevent permanent injury.
He didn't realize it at first, though. Miles finished practice, did his regular weight lifting and attended team meetings. Then, the pain became too much to bear.
''John saved my leg; he saved my life,'' Miles said. ''Me being a spiritual guy, I just had to think, `OK, God's got me on this. There's a reason why this happened.'''
Miles made it through the surgery, his leg intact and his spirit unshaken. He was off crutches and walking again just a few weeks later - dreaming again about his next chance.
''I was just happy that I would be able to play football again,'' Miles said, ''and it wasn't too late for my leg.''
A determined - and somewhat bold - Miles found his way to coach Todd Bowles' office one day during the offseason and let him know what he expected.
''I walked in there,'' Miles recalled, ''and I said, `I don't care what happens, I just want an opportunity. I can deal with being cut. I just want the chance, the opportunity. Doing two years on the (practice) squad can do that to you. I just wanted to make sure they knew I just wanted a fair chance.''
After months of getting his body back in shape, Miles came to the facility a few days before organized team activities began in May and was checked out by Mellody. Everything was fine, and after the scare of his life, Miles was back on the football field.
''I trained hard in the offseason and was dedicated to getting back to this camp,'' said Miles, an undrafted free agent out of California University of Pennsylvania. ''I thought, with the new coaches, there will be new eyes, new people here to see my talent. There wasn't going to be any favoritism or anything like that. I just knew that my chance was going to come.''
Miles has been making plays throughout camp, impressing his coaches and making a real case to stick when the regular season begins.
His chances have improved with a season-ending injury to Miles' good friend Antonio Allen, who tore his Achilles last week and was placed on injured reserve Monday. Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor are the projected starters at safety, with Jaiquawn Jarrett and Miles the potential backups.
''It's sad it came that way because he's one of the guys I'm closest to on the team,'' Miles said of Allen. ''I tell him all the time, `Hey, I'm thinking about you and I'm going to do this for you.' It gave me a better opportunity, and I'm going to finish this and take care of it.''
Miles already has a strong fan following on Twitter because of his tough, physical approach. He has embraced his underdog role, too, and that's something that has endeared him to fans.
Not bad for a guy who has just one NFL regular-season game under his belt.
''Man, it's truly a blessing, just to be supported by so many fans out here when I haven't played as much as I think I should have over a couple of years,'' Miles said. ''My motivation might be the critics, too. I know you shouldn't pay much attention to them, but being from a small school and not being able to play all the time and having people doubt me, it's been tough.
''But I know who I am, and it's time for everybody else to find out, too.''
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