Last season was not only a battle of attrition that the Bears ultimately lost, but also an extremely frustrating one. Everyone was anticipating great things and how that offense would look with all the incredible weapons they had. Then suddenly one by one their top weapons all either were lost completely for significant time, or they played hurt and ineffectively. Some like Alshon Jeffery did both.
No player left a void bigger than Alshon Jeffery. In and out of the lineup, and/or playing hurt and less than 100% the Bears offense suffered, and lost their one true star who can dictate coverage and open things up. Since hot-shot rookie Kevin White went down and even then as a rookie he would be far from an instant impact certainty.
Although he does not possess explosive speed or quickness as some of the elite #1 wide receivers, when Jeffery is in the game his impact is undeniable. He is one of the best back shoulder wideouts in the game, a skill that Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler knows how to exploit to his and the Bears passing offense’s advantage.
However those skills don’t do a team much good sitting in a tub in the training room, or on the trainer’s table rehabbing ouchies. I say ouchies in jest as there was a bit of whispering about Jeffery’s true commitment to getting back on the field without a guaranteed long-term deal. Some in the media speculated he was possibly following the advice of his agents, lawyers and financial advisers not to risk his health before he gets his big money deal, even with less than debilitating injuries.
This perception seems to be shared by the Bears brass as they seem committed to allowing Jeffery to play out the last year of his deal and either prove his worth to the team or to just simply let him walk. There were also some cryptic comments by Bears head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace along the way, making the appearance they are less than convinced Jeffery is committed to the Bears or if he can play through pain. Something some Bear fans have serious doubts about as well.
Fox, as most are aware of by now, is less than thrilled with players who are not 100 % committed to his program and the organization. This fact also has brought about speculation that Jeffery may be trying to irk the grizzled Bears head coach enough to punch his ticket out of town. It has also been speculated that Jeffery is far from pleased to be in Chicago and desires to be back down south in warmer climates. There’s also the motive of ensuring that the Bears do not tag him either so that he will hit free agency and thus hit the paydirt he and his advisers and handlers seek.
Add this with the fact the Bears have a no-nonsense wide receivers position coach that will not lay off his pupils until they reach their absolute top potential. Will Jeffery respond well to this? Especially with questions surrounding his physical and mental toughness along with questionable commitment to physical fitness. His history at South Carolina along with the fact he quit after only one session with Kyle Long at Jay Glazer’s MMA training facility.
Curtis Johnson will put that toughness to the test and likely will push Jeffery to play through minor pain. Bear beat reporter for the Chicago Tribune Dan Weiderer had a very interesting piece about Johnson just four days ago. Weiderer wrote,
"“I’m serious,” Payton reiterates. “At the very beginning of that very first OTA, when the very first horn blows, you need to be there and see it. It’ll tell you all you need to know.”Payton could talk forever about Johnson, the 54-year-old perfectionist with the drill-sergeant teaching style that players sometimes hate until they grow to love the results."
Kevin White noticed right giving this quote from last weeks non mandatory OTA’s.
"“This dude has a lot of emotion,” White says. “His whole thing is he’s not going to let his guys be average.”"
It has yet remains to be seen whether or not Jeffery can respond to this type of scrutiny through an entire season. Both his physical and mental toughness will have to be at its peak maximum to sustain his play along with all the pressure and scrutiny of a possible walk season.
Former ram great Marshall Faulk chimes in on the subject knowing Johnson from his collegiate days where Johnson was instrumental in recruiting Faulk to San Diego State.
"“If Alshon is a competitor and he’s into working hard,” Faulk says, “he’ll be OK. But if the knocks on him are true, then this is going to be the worst thing ever for him.”"
I don’t know about the average Bears fan, but I for one love this Johnson fella. The only thing that really matters and remains to be seen is if Jeffery ends up loving him too.