(CBS) As top receiver Alshon Jeffery encountered another soft-tissue muscle ailment Wednesday that forced him to sit out Thursday’s practice — drawing more eye rolls and “go figure” comments from outsiders — Bears general manager Ryan Pace emphasized that Jeffery is misconstrued at times because of his low-key demeanor.
“With Alshon, he’s an extreme competitor,” Pace said in an interview on the Spiegel and Goff Show on Thursday. “And I think sometimes people think because he’s a little quiet that he’s not competitive. He’s ultra-competitive. So when he’s hurt, that’s legit. We just got to be mindful of that. I think we’ll get a handle on it. I think he’ll have a good season.”
The 26-year-old Jeffery missed seven games in 2015 because of soft-tissue injuries to four different muscles. That was a large reason why he and the Bears didn’t reach a contract extension by the July 15 deadline. Jeffery wanted to be paid like an elite receiver, but the Bears want him to prove he can be regularly available in addition to being a play-maker. Jeffery will play out the 2016 season on the franchise tag, a one-year deal worth about $14.6 million.
“I felt like we got pretty close,” Pace said of negotiations with Jeffery’s camp. “We talked every day with his agent, Tori Dandy. Those contract talks are so personal, and I think it’s best to keep that tight. But I thought it was good and cordial and doesn’t mean we can’t talk after the season. So it is what it kind of is right now.”
Asked whether Jeffery enjoys playing in Chicago, Pace responded, “Yes, yes.”
“He’s excited with what we’re doing right now, with the young group of players that we have,” Pace said. “I think everybody feels this upward trend.”
Pace also touched on the recent extension for edge rusher Willie Young, who’s now under contract through 2018. Young approached his transition from defensive end to primarily being an outside linebacker with a hard-working, optimistic attitude, and Pace believes rewarding a player who carries such characteristics sends a message to the locker room of how to go about work the right way.
“On the field, he’s productive,” Pace said. “And then everything he does off the field — overcoming the injury, he’s a leader, he takes care of himself. So those are the guys you want to reward. And I do think that spreads through the locker room. I do think that the message is, ‘Hey guys, if you do things the right way and you’re a pro and you’re a good teammate and you’re productive and you’re available, you’re going to be rewarded by the organization.’ You just have to be careful of that, because let’s just say you do that to the wrong guy, the locker room notices that.
“When we make these decisions on contract extensions, we got to make sure we’re doing it to the right kind of teammates, the right types of players, and Willie definitely fits that.”
Listen to Pace’s full interview below.