Having been suspended for the second time in less than a year for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing-drug policy, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman said Monday that he has been struggling with a career-threatening head injury that includes memory loss.
Freeman has spent the last eight weeks on injured reserve after tearing a chest muscle on the first defensive play of the Bears’ season opener. His suspension comes without pay and will last 10 games, the NFL’s standard punishment for two violations. A third results in a two-year ban.
Freeman was a Bears defensive captain. Now it’s likely he has played his last game with the team.
He’s not allowed inside Halas Hall for the next 10 games.
“I hate to say I’m sorry again, but I am sorry,” Freeman wrote Monday. “I’ve been on IR all year, and you try and stay out of sight, but sorry for the distraction.
“I had been lying to friends, family and loved ones when it comes to the question of, ‘Are you OK?’ Knowing my career may be over due [to]everything that came with the head injury [that’s been purposely downplayed by me], memory loss and all, has actually been a bit of a struggle.
“That being said, there’s no excuse to cope with any problems by taking any kind of pills. I don’t know my future, but a big thanks to the Bears and the NFL. If I would have used their programs and services earlier than I did, I wouldn’t be in this situation. Sorry again for the distraction.”
Asked if he was aware of Freeman’s head issues, coach John Fox said the Bears’ medical staff is more involved with players on IR than he is.
“I think I would respect what he has to say,” Fox said. “But the reality is we’re obviously pretty disappointed. It’s really just like last year again.
“It’s something that we talk about very, very consistently. They are responsible for what they put in their body. I’ll just leave it at that. From my perspective, that’s just how I look at it. I haven’t seen all the details. . . .
“[I’m] just kind of disappointed that it happened again the second year in a row, and we’ll just kind of leave it at that.”
Fox demurred when asked if he was alarmed that Freeman said he downplayed a head injury.
“That’s really kind of way ahead of my pay grade,” he said. “I’m not a doctor. I’m a football coach. We look and we try to protect guys the best way we can. They don’t put me in charge of doctoring.”
Since general manager Ryan Pace and Fox took over the Bears 2½ years ago, the team has had five players suspended a total of seven times for drug violations.
Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson and offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje were suspended four games in 2015 for performance-enhancing drugs. Also that year, practice-squad receiver Jalen Saunders was suspended twice — for four games, then 10 — for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Freeman and star receiver Alshon Jeffery were busted within eight days of each other last year. In a contract year, Jeffery said he took a supplement without knowing it was banned. He left for free agency in the offseason, signing a one-year deal with the Eagles.
Freeman claimed last year that he’d mistakenly taken a prescription medication that was on the league’s banned list. He returned from the four-week hiatus for the Bears’ last two games and finished as the team’s leading tackler.
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