For the third time in barely four months, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is on an injury list with a lower-body problem, this time a groin strain suffered in practice on Wednesday and which kept him out of practice on Thursday.
Also on the injury report for Thursday were not-practicing Pernell McPhee (knee), Eddie Royal (knee) and defensive Mitch Unrein (illness). Limited in practice were Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), Matt Forte (knee), Hroniss Grasu (neck), Shea McClellin (knee) Tracy Porter (hip) and Antrel Rolle (ankle).
Jeffery, who was walking ostensibly normally in the locker room both Wednesday and Thursday, missed all four preseason games with a calf injury in training camp. He missed Games 2-5 with a hamstring strain before coming back with games of 8-10-10 catches for 147-116-151 yards.
Quarterback Jay Cutler didn’t seem overly concerned about being without Jeffery, which he has been for half of this season. “I don't know,” Cutler said. “He'll be OK. If he can't go, we've had life without him and we'll figure it out with the guys we've got.”
The trouble is that the Bears, who did defeat Oakland and Kansas City without Jeffery, and also without Royal at Kansas City, are playing the St. Louis Rams, who are Top 5 against the pass. Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego are in the bottom half of the NFL against the pass.
There simply are things that Jeffery can do, and what the offense can do with him, that they cannot without him.
“It’s nice when he’s available to go because obviously he’s an impact player for us,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “But we’ve got a lot of guys that step up when he’s not in.”
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The reality is that plays can be called with Jeffery that can’t be with other receivers. In the San Diego game, when Cutler threw a pick-6, Jeffery firmly stated that he wanted the ball on a “go” route, which Gase obligingly called, and the Bears had a 47-yard completion.
The reason the play was both called and succeeded: Jeffery. Gase and all offensive coordinators don’t usually take play requests. But “when ‘17’ makes a request, you usually have a pretty good feeling about him making a play on the ball,” Gase said. “There’s been a couple times where he’s suggested some things we’ve gotten to and he’s made plays. I know Marty [Bennett] has made some suggestions we’ve gone to and were really good suggestions.
“So I feel like those two guys, they’ve played a lot of ball, made a lot of plays, so I feel confident when they bring a suggestion to the table.”