NFL suspends Bears receiver Jeffery 4 games for drug violation
Anyone who watched the Chicago Bears' deplorable 36-10 road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday might have been wondering what else could go wrong for this 2-7 team.
They found out Monday when Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended four games without pay after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Jeffery was named the Bears' franchise player in the off-season, guaranteeing him $14.6 million this season. But the league suspension will cost him $3.44 million from his paycheck. It also will deprive the Bears and quarterback Jay Cutler of their No. 1 target.
Jeffery was voted to the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season, the first of his back-to-back seasons of more than 80 catches and more than 1,100 yards, along with a total of 17 touchdowns. He had 4 receptions for 47 yards in Sunday's loss to the Bucs and now has 40 receptions for 630 yards this season.
"Obviously we're very disappointed, and I think he's fairly embarrassed about it," Bears coach John Fox said. "But we'll support him and welcome him when he gets back after serving his suspension."
Fox was asked if Jeffery was made aware by the league of what substance produced his positive test. "I'm sure he does, but I'm not privy to that," Fox said, "and we can't comment anyways."
Jeffery is eligible to return to the practice field Dec. 12, a day after the Bears play the Lions in Detroit.
Until then, wide receivers Cam Meredith and Eddie Royal, along with tight end Zach Miller, are expected to play bigger roles in the passing game, which struggled Sunday behind an awful performance by Cutler.
The Bears also had five starters go down with injuries against the Bucs. The Bears went into that game as healthy as they've been in an injury-ravaged season.
"I look at it like a lot of the things we've been through already," Fox said of Jeffery's suspension. "We're going to have to have somebody step up, and that's the way we'll treat it. Nobody comes (and) rescues you, as I've mentioned before. So everybody else is going to have to play that much better."
Jeffery revealed the reason behind the suspension in a statement he released on Twitter.
"As a professional athlete, I have been careful about what I put in my body. I took a recommended supplement to combat inflammation. Unfortunately this supplement contained an ingredient that was on the NFL's banned substance list.
"I take full responsibility and I'm deeply upset with myself for not doing the proper research on this supplement. I want to apologize to my family, the Bears organization, my teammates, and Bears fans. I will work hard to earn back the respect and trust of the Bears nation and look forward to being back on the field."
After upsetting the then-first place Minnesota Vikings on Halloween night and enjoying their bye week, the Bears were hoping to start stacking wins with Sunday's game at Tampa, Florida. The blowout loss left them at 2-7 and with no realistic chance of making the playoffs.
"If there's a silver lining," Fox said, "it's that Marquess (Wilson) is going to be eligible to come up here shortly, and now we have a roster spot."
Wilson has been out since late spring after suffering a fractured foot, but he practiced last week for the first time since then, and he could be added to the 53-man roster before Sunday's road game against the New York Giants.
Wilson caught 28 passes for 464 yards last season and had a team-best 16.6 yards per reception.
• Bob LeGere will have more on the Bears and Jeffery later today at dailyherald.com.