At the start of Monday’s team meetings at Halas Hall, Bears coach John Fox went through his usual overview plus the customary welcoming of new personnel. Included was the introduction of a familiar face who hadn’t been around for a while.
Guys, in case you don’t remember, this is Alshon Jeffery.
After a four-game exile, Jeffery’s punishment for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the Bears top receiver returned to team headquarters, ready to integrate back into an offense that badly needs his services.
The Bears didn’t make Jeffery, a former South Carolina star, available to reporters. So it won’t be until Wednesday that Jeffery finally shares his side of the story, his recap of how his contract year took such a detour. According to Jeffery’s social media explanation last month, he took “a recommended supplement to combat inflammation” and ultimately flunked a drug test, resulting in the suspension that was levied Nov. 14.
The suspension further complicated the Bears’ evaluations of how he may fit into their plans. It also cost the receiver more than $3.4 million in salary and four games.
Fox was terse in describing Jeffery’s return. The Bears coach wouldn’t say where his top receiver had spent his time the past four weeks. Fox also made it clear he was curious to see what kind of shape Jeffery is in when the Bears get back on the practice fields in the middle of the week.
“You’d like to think – and I think it would be true in Alshon’s case – you’re in a contract year, you’re missing four games and you’ve got three games left; I’d say you’d probably be pretty hard-pressed to be in shape,” Fox said.
Jeffery finds himself with just three more Sundays to display his own worth as he comes to the end of his first season playing on the franchise tag. The Bears entered the year with big questions about his durability and availability. And while initially it seemed promising that the talented receiver had played in the team’s first nine games, the positive test for a banned substance raised new questions about Jeffery’s reliability and trustworthiness.