Alshon Jeffery's return a start for developing Bears offense
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - Quarterback Jay Cutler became reacquainted with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery when the Chicago Bears began a three-day minicamp on Tuesday.
It's been a while.
The two have a lot of catching up to do in the Bears' offense under new coordinator Dowell Loggains after Jeffery followed up an injury-filled season by staying away from the team's voluntary organized team activity work at Halas Hall.
"I'm not worried about that at all — we're going to catch him up," Cutler said. "He'll be ready."
Cutler spent much of last season missing his top four receivers because of injuries, including rookie draft pick Kevin White for the entire season.
Jeffery, designated a franchise player during free agency, has been working out on his own. He's due $14.6 million this year, but wants Bears GM Ryan Pace to negotiate a long-term deal.
Asked if he plans to be at the start of training camp in July, Jeffery said, "That's the goal. But that's between Mr. Pace and my agent."
Cutler expressed confidence in Jeffery's ability to master any additions to the offense Loggains has made since he took over after former coordinator Adam Gase became the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
"Alshon is a quiet guy," Cutler said. "He keeps to himself. I don't say much to him out there because I know that he's hard on himself. He gives us everything he has when he can go.
"I just try to encourage him and make sure that he knows what he's going to do and he kind of does his thing."
Jeffery worked out on his own in Florida, and said his offseason conditioning hasn't varied greatly despite problems with pulled hamstrings and groin strains last season.
"I was just working on some soft tissue issues," Jeffery said. "I was working out with my trainer and some other people I was seeing down there."
Jeffery could issue no guarantees he'll be healthy this season.
"I mean I did some things this offseason to prevent them, but overall with injuries, this is the game of football," Jeffery said. "There is a 99 percent chance you are going to get hurt."
Cutler said he's actually working with two receivers who are trying to play catch up.
"They're still learning," Cutler said. "Al has got a little catching up to do with some of the stuff that we're putting in and then Kevin, taking a year off, it's hard for anybody to not play football for a year. He played at West Virginia, where our offense is a little bit different.
"So he's kind of got a year and a half of just straight catching up with what he has to do in a short amount of time."
Coach John Fox refused to call the task ahead of his receivers a simple one.
"Well I think a lot's changed," he said. "We have different players, some different coaches.
"I kind of hope they have changed. We were 6-10 and in last place, so, I'm hoping to change that, too."
Cutler hasn't had all four of his top wide receivers together since last spring. On Tuesday, even though he had White and Jeffery, he was without Marquess Wilson. At the start of practice, Wilson suffered a leg injury and left the practice field.
Cutler believes one of the biggest adjustments is dealing with Loggains, who was the team's quarterbacks coach last season. Loggains has a reputation for being a bit more blunt than Gase.
"There's definitely some honesty there," Cutler said. "He's not afraid to tell me when I'm completely wrong, and rightfully so. I like to tell him whenever I think we're not doing things right or we need to change things.
"I think at the core of that we kind of cut through some stuff and we get things done a little bit quicker."
The Bears ranked 21st on offense last season when Cutler had a career-best passer rating of 92.3. He threw for 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
"We've got to be better than last year and that's what we tell the guys," Cutler said. "Even though we are in Year 2 and we've got some new pieces out here, and Kevin and Alshon's been gone, that's not an excuse for us.
"We didn't turn this offense over. We're have the same terminology. The same stuff. We've got to improve in the direction we want to go."
NOTES: Linebacker Pernell McPhee is being rested until the start of training camp. He underwent offseason arthroscopic knee surgery. ... Guard Ted Larsen did not practice, but Fox did not say if the veteran's absence was because of an injury.
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