A bit of surprise was registered before this season when player voting for 2016 co-captains resulted in wide receiver Alshon Jeffery being chosen, along with quarterback Jay Cutler, as a co-captain of the offense.
A considerably bigger surprise came Monday when the league announced that the designated team leader was suspended without pay for the team’s next four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. Jeffery’s suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Bears’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 12 following the team’s Dec. 11 game against the Detroit Lions.
"Obviously we're very disappointed,” said coach John Fox. “I think he's fairly embarrassed about it but we'll support him and welcome him when he gets back after serving his suspension.”
With this latest travail in a season full of them, Fox might be excused for wondering if someone somewhere is sticking pins in a Fox doll. But...
“I look at it like a lot of the things we've been through already,” he said. “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.”
The Jeffery blow sends ripples in many directions, including toward the team, the player and possibly into some quarters of the NFL.
The Bears balked last offseason at meeting Jeffery’s demands for a multi-year contract last offseason, instead opting for the franchise tag and its guaranteed one-year pay of $14.9 million. The suspension will cost Jeffery approximately $3.43 million of that this season.
How much it costs Jeffery in negotiations next offseason, whether with the Bears or with other teams, remains to play out.
Jeffery was to be the team’s “face” in promotions beginning this week for Pro Bowl voting. He was second to tight end Zach Miller (44) with 40 receptions this year and had been having what for him was a season a bit off the standard set in 2013-14 with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with 89 and 85 catches in those years. Jeffery missed seven games last year but still caught 54 passes, four for touchdowns.
Oft-injured Marquess Wilson recently began practicing after suffering an offseason fractured foot, and would be eligible to return.
“If there's a silver lining it's that Marquess is going to be eligible to come up here shortly,” Fox said, “and now we have a roster spot.”
The Bears received word of the Jeffery suspension Monday morning and word filtered out quickly.
“We weren’t even in a team setting,” Fox said. “We were in offense and defense [meetings] kind of because of the nature of our schedule. They’d already broken down to watch the tape and it was pretty much communicated.
“I think these guys have done pretty good about handling things, whether it’s been injury or now a suspension. At the end of the day we’re without somebody for a term of time and I think they understand what’s at stake.”