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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Alshon Jeffery was back on the field, cutting and juking and hauling in passes for the Chicago Bears.
Of course, it was practice and not a game.
It still remains to be seen if he will play in this weekend's opener against the Green Bay Packers. But seeing him practice Wednesday for the first time in nearly a month after being sidelined by a left calf injury was a good sign for the Bears.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time and listening to what the trainers and coaches say," he said.
Jeffery had not completed a practice since Aug. 11. He injured the calf during a walkthrough the next day and did not play in the preseason.
The leg did not seem to bother Jeffery in individual drills during the portion of practice open to reporters. He appeared to be running full speed and did not show any signs of discomfort.
"First of all, he's got to be healthy," coach John Fox said. "He hasn't been out here for some time and based on what I saw today, mentally he's on top of it and physically he looks like he's gaining ground."
The Bears are trying to regroup after a five-win season that cost former general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman their jobs. New GM Ryan Pace and Fox were brought in to oversee an overhaul that they hope will restore some semblance of the Monsters of the Midway.
Chicago now has a defensive-minded head coach after going with the offensive-oriented Trestman for two years. But the Bears are also making changes on offense, trying to strike a better balance between the pass and run under new coordinator Adam Gase.
Having their top receiver sidelined does not help.
"We still have time before Sunday," Fox said. "That's why we're out here practicing. As I've said many times, I'd rather they're out here every day all the time. But that's not reality in this sport."
The Bears are counting on Jeffery, a Pro Bowl pick in 2013, to help make up for the trade of Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets, not to mention the loss of rookie Kevin White, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft who has a stress fracture in his left shin that could sideline him all year.
Having Jeffery, with at least 1,100 yards receiving the past two years, sure would be a big boost, particularly with a tough opener.
Green Bay outscored Chicago a combined 93-31 while sweeping two games last season. The schedule does not get much easier the next two weeks, with a home game against Arizona and a trip to Super Bowl runner-up Seattle.
Jeffery said he was surprised it took him this long to get back on the field. Asked if he had any setbacks, he said, "Nah, I'm feeling pretty good. I'm just taking it one day a time, though."
He also dismissed the idea that he dragged out his recovery because he has an expiring contract.
"My contract situation has nothing to do with it," he said. "It'll take care of itself. I wasn't at practice because I've been injured. If you've ever had a calf injury, any of you guys, you would know."
Notes: WRs Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) were limited in practice, as was LB Jonathan Bostic (ankle). QB Jimmy Clausen (concussion) and DT Eddie Goldman (concussion) were full participants, while LB Sam Acho (illness) and CB Tracy Porter (hamstring) did not practice. LT Jermon Bushrod, who has been bothered by a back problem, was not listed on the injury report.
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