If Alshon Jeffery knows what his future holds, he’s not letting on. The Chicago Bears receiver wouldn’t say for certain Tuesday afternoon whether he expected to play this season under the franchise tag.
He was also nondescript when discussing how he’d react if the Bears couldn’t finalize a new, longer-term deal done for him before the July 15 deadline.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” Jeffery said. “That situation will take care of itself. I’m just here to play football and I’m focused on football.”
As for the former South Carolina star’s return to Halas Hall for this week’s mandatory minicamp, a reunion that comes after he chose to distance himself from the team’s offseason strength and conditioning work as well as three weeks of organized team activities?
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“My thought process was just to continue to work hard,” Jeffery said. “… Honestly, people are going to say what they want to say about you regardless. So every day you wake up in the morning, people are going to say something good about you or bad about you. That’s not my concern.”
Jeffery’s return this week comes with great scrutiny, with the Bears coaching staff and many of his teammates eager to see just how he assimilates back into an offense that is now under the direction of new coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Jeffery is also now working with a new position coach, uniting with demanding assistant Curtis Johnson. So yes, the curiosity surrounding the standout receiver’s physical presence and mindset has been notable.
Bears coach John Fox insisted Tuesday he has already moved past Jeffery’s prolonged absence.
“I kind of look at it as more glass half-full,” Fox said. “It’s good to have him here. He looks (like he’s) in good shape. He looks ready to roll. Obviously, we didn’t take it to the limit his first day back. But I thought he looked good.”
As it stands, Jeffery is in line to make $14.6 million under the franchise tag this season. And while Bears general manager Ryan Pace and Jeffery’s camp have had discussions about a long-term contract, all indications to this point are that the Bears will ask Jeffery to play under that tag in a quest to learn more about his durability, toughness and long-term potential.
On Tuesday, Jeffery was asked directly whether he wanted to be in Chicago for the long-term. “That’s the goal,” Jeffery said. “But that’s between Mr. Pace and my agent.”