Chicago Bears rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has shown fans that he can be a capable No. 2 next to Brandon Marshall. Injuries have slowed him down a bit this season, but so far he has racked up 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns in seven games. His three TDs put him in a tie for first among all NFC rookies. Thanks to the 2012 Pepsi MAX NFL Rookie of the Week program, I was able to have a short phone conversation with Jeffery to discuss his first season, the coaching staff, and what it takes to play in the NFL.
Jeffery started out his athletic career in winning fashion, playing basketball for Calhoun County High School in South Carolina. His team won the state championship his freshman year, before he ever stepped onto a football field. However, as a sophomore, he tried football after watching his older brothers play. Despite winning three more state championships in basketball, he knew football was his sport. He stuck with it for three years at the University of South Carolina and was drafted by the Chicago Bears this offseason. The rest is history.
Since joining the Bears, he has had his share of adversity, dealing with two injuries that have kept him out of six entire games and parts of two others. He said that one of the most difficult things about transitioning to the NFL was the amount of focus and work ethic needed to succeed. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett have taught him a lot about what it takes to make it in the NFL.
One thing that impressed me the most about Jeffery was, what some people might perceive as cockiness, came off as an extreme confidence in himself and his abilities. When asked if any defensive backs gave him big problems this season, he couldn’t think of any on the spot. However, when asked if there were any aspects of his game that he wanted to improve, he said, “Everything.”
Bears fans have a lot to look forward to if Jeffery, Marshall and Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler, stay healthy. These three guys are developing chemistry that continues to improve every time they are on the field together. Jeffery had nothing but positive things to say about Cutler. He described him as the leader of the offense.
And if Jeffery has any reservations about head coach Lovie Smith or offensive coordinator Mike Tice, you wouldn’t know it from talking to him. He really appreciates and respects Lovie for his strong motivation in the locker room. When asked about Tice being responsible for a Bears offense that ranks 28th in yards per game, Jeffery was quick to point out that not just one person is responsible. He said that every guy, from the coach to quarterback to the receivers, is accountable, and everyone on the team has things they can improve.
Jeffery also isn’t one of those NFL players who is out at the club all night, every night. He spends a lot of his free time relaxing at home. That being said, when it’s time to work, he’s ready. When asked if he had any regrets from his rookie season, he said that with each day, he is just constantly trying to get better.
As for this weekend’s game against the Green Bay Packers, Jeffery said that he doesn’t care who’s guarding him, he just wants to win. This will be his second time playing the Packers this season. He had a season low one catch for seven yards in Green Bay during Week 2.
Jeffery assured me that his hand and knee are getting better each day. He did drop a few balls last Sunday, but ended the game with three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Not too shabby for his first full game since Week 5. He will need to be as close to healthy and ready to help out the Bears offense against the Packers. When asked what he was expecting this weekend, he said, “It’s gonna be dogfight. It’s gonna be a big one.”
With the NFC North division title and a playoff spot on the line, you bet your Martz it will.
*Don’t forget to check out the 2012 Pepsi MAX NFL Rookie of the Week program at www.NFL.com/rookies and vote between Tuesday 8am CT and Friday 2pm CT for Alshon Jeffery each week he is nominated. Also, check out this Funny or Die video featuring RGIII and other NFL rookies.*
*You can follow Alshon Jeffery on Twitter @AJJeffery1.*