BOURBONNAIS — Alshon Jeffery’s goal of durability lasted less than a week.
Bears coach John Fox said the star receiver did not practice Thursday because of a mild hamstring injury. Rather than call it a strain after Jeffery left practice the day before, the coach had simply cited “muscle tightness.”
Thursday, Fox downplayed the severity of the hamstring injury after practice at Olivet Nazarene University.
“We get concerned about everybody, whether they’re injured or not practicing, but on the other hand we don’t get too concerned,” he said. “We’ve got guys to take their place, we’ve got (roster) numbers, we’re at 89 now. So it’s part of camp.”
Maybe so. But it’s also concerning, giving Jeffery’s struggles with soft tissue injuries last year and his refusal to train with teammates until attending mandatory minicamp, at the threat of a fine. He worked out with famed trainer David Alexander in Miami instead.
Concerns about Jeffery’s durability contributed to the Bears’ willingness to let him play under a one-year, $14.59 million franchise tag this year. They had engaged in long-term negotiations that Pace called “friendly” before the July 15 deadline came and went.
Pace laid out the stakes the day before the Bears’ first training camp practice.
“He knows he has to stay healthy,” he said. “And we’ll see going forward.”
Jeffery has hurt his hamstrings before.
After a calf injury cost Jeffery all four preseason games last year, he played in the season opener against the Packers — only to injure his hamstring and sit out the next four games. He missed the Bears’ 10th game with groin and shoulder problems and hurt his hamstring again in their 14th game against the Vikings. He was inactive the next week against the Buccaneers before being placed on Injured Reserve before the season finale.
Jeffery started half the Bears’ 16 games last year and appeared in one more, catching 54 balls for 807 yards.
“Not havingAl, of course he’s a huge (part) of the game,” rookie receiver Kevin White said. “We’ve just got to push forward and do what we have to do. And we’ve got to worry about what we have to do as far as staying consistent. I really can’t worry about who’s out there and who’s not out there. You’ve just got to do this part.”