LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Chicago Bears coach John Fox cited Alshon Jeffery's soon-to-be expired contract as a major motivating factor for the wide receiver to keep himself in shape during a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
"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 was at the team's practice facility on Monday for the first time since the league suspended him on Nov. 13.
"It's good to have him back," Fox said. "So we'll kind of see how he looks a little bit today and tomorrow, and obviously a little bit on Wednesday.
"Our strength and conditioning people, I'm sure they'll get a pretty good idea of where he is conditioning-wise, which I'm sure he'll be in tip-top shape. And then the coaches will get their hands on him Wednesday."
In a statement released the day his suspension was announced, Jeffery said he "took a recommended supplement to combat inflammation, but unfortunately this supplement contained an ingredient that was on the NFL's banned substance list."
A former Pro Bowler, Jeffery signed a one-year franchise tag tender worth $14.599 million, but he lost $3.45 million (the equivalent to four game checks) due to the suspension.
The Bears have been noncommittal regarding their future plans for Jeffery, who turns 27 in February. The two sides failed to agree to terms on a long-term deal last offseason before the Bears applied the tag. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Chicago has the right to tag Jeffery again in the offseason -- at an increased cost. Otherwise, the receiver -- whom the Bears drafted in the second round in 2012 -- could test free agency for the first time.
"Obviously, we're pretty tied into performance," Fox said. "So I think ... getting back and indoctrinated in what we are doing -- you know, he's got a new quarterback as well. And we adjust and customize a little bit per guy. That's kind of been our downfall a little bit all season has been execution, and so we'll just try to get all them on the same page. It will be good to have a guy we think is pretty good back in the lineup."
Jeffery played in just nine games last year because of injuries but still caught 54 passes for 807 yards and four touchdowns. After skipping the club's ensuing voluntary workout program, Jeffery started all nine games prior to his suspension, but he had only 40 receptions for 630 yards and one touchdown as the Bears suffered multiple injuries at quarterback.
Jeffery's best two seasons occurred from 2013-14, when he caught a combined 174 passes for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Bears' Alshon Jeffery, with expiring contract, returns from suspension
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