FOX 32 / AP — Star receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended Monday for four games without pay for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, the latest staggering blow for the reeling Chicago Bears.
Jeffery posted on Twitter that he took a supplement for inflammation containing a substance banned by the league.
"I take full responsibility and I'm deeply upset with myself for not doing the proper research on this supplement," he wrote. "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."
His suspension was another dose of bad news for a team that lost several players to injuries in an embarrassing 36-10 loss at Tampa Bay that left the Bears with a 2-7 record. Now, they will have to get by without arguably their best player, starting with Sunday's game at the New York Giants.
"Obviously we're very disappointed," coach John Fox said. "I think he's fairly embarrassed about it, but we'll support him and welcome him when he gets back after serving his suspension."
As if Jeffery's punishment wasn't enough, it looks like the Bears will be without star right guard Kyle Long. The NFL Network reported Monday that he will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.
Jeffery will be eligible to be activated on Dec. 12 and play against Green Bay six days later. He leads the team with 630 yards receiving and is second with 40 catches.
"It (stinks) not having your top weapon on offense," tight end Zach Miller said. "We have to figure out ways to be better, to do better collectively. But I don't think you really replace Alshon Jeffery that easily. We'll have to do it as a group."
Jeffery is playing for the $14.6 million franchise tag after he and the Bears were unable to agree to a long-term contract in the offseason. He was limited to nine games because of injuries a year ago, and now has a PED suspension hanging over him with his contract set to expire again.
Fox said players found out during meetings on Monday.
"All teammates, I think, at the end of the day, they're supportive," Fox said. "But I know Alshon's embarrassed by it and I'm sure disappointed would be a good word for the rest of us."
Fox mentioned a "silver lining" with receiver Marquess Wilson potentially returning soon from a foot injury. He has been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp. But his comeback would be small consolation, particularly given the rash of injuries the Bears suffered against the Buccaneers.
Kyle Long, a three-time Pro Bowl lineman, left the field on a cart with a right ankle injury. Fox indicated after the game that it might be a high ankle sprain. And on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport, Long was ruled out for the rest of the season.
More bad news for the #Bears: I’m told the MRI has confirmed that star OL Kyle Long is out for the season. Major loss in leadership & play.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 14, 2016
So, for the Bears today: They lose star WR Alshon Jeffery for 4 games & star OL Kyle Long for the season. So many bad injuries this year.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 14, 2016
Ted Larsen figures to take Long's place in the lineup, though Eric Kush is a possibility.
Fox had no update on running back Jordan Howard (ankle or Achilles tendon), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) or defensive lineman Will Sutton (ankle). Right tackle Bobby Massie also suffered a concussion.
The loss to Tampa Bay also raised more questions about the direction of the franchise and wiped out any good vibes the Bears had after they knocked off NFC North leader Minnesota two weeks earlier.
Jay Cutler threw two interceptions and fumbled twice after leading the Bears to a victory over the Vikings in his return from a sprained right thumb. It all added up to a big reality check for a team that was as confident as any with two wins halfway through the season could be.
The Bears thought they might turn the corner with key players coming back from injuries. Instead, they crashed.
"I still feel like we're not out of it," Miller said.
Mathematically, they're not.
The Bears trail Detroit and Minnesota by three games and Green Bay by two in the division. The Vikings are struggling in a big way with four straight losses. So are the Packers, who have dropped three in a row.
But with Jeffery's suspension, the Bears will have to get by without one of their biggest playmakers.
"I guess the best word I could use would be unfortunate," defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "Because I look forward to seeing 17 (Jeffery) out there going up deep and catching balls and making plays. It's unfortunate and I'm going to miss him."