Bears WR Alshon Jeffery still wants a long-term deal

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery said on Tuesday that finalizing a long-term contract with Chicago is a priority, but he added that he would be OK playing under the franchise tag in 2016 if the two sides cannot strike a deal before the July 15 deadline.

"[A long-term deal] is the goal, but that's between [Bears general manager Ryan] Pace and my agent," Jeffery said. "It really doesn't matter to me. Like I said, that situation will take care of itself. I'm here to play football and to focus on football."

Jeffery, who already signed his franchise-tag tender worth $14.599 million, reported to Day 1 of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday after he skipped the entire voluntary portion of the offseason program to train in South Florida.

Quarterback Jay Cutler sounded relieved to have Jeffery back on the field.

"I mean, you take a guy like that out of the offense, it's going to be difficult," Cutler said. "I think it was a great opportunity [with Jeffery gone] for Kevin White and Eddie Royal and some of these other guys to kind of grow in their position and get a little bit better. But it's always good to have the big guy back out here."

Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long added: "I was so happy to see him this morning. Even happier when I saw him in the huddle and we were calling passing plays, and even happier when I'm seeing him make huge catches in traffic. I told him, I said, 'Dude, it's great to have you back.' I understand he's dealing with all of that stuff, and that's none of my business, but to have him out here ... the defense has been celebrating too much, so to have our secret weapon out there is great."

Jeffery said he stayed away from the team facility to deal with the soft-tissue injuries that limited him to nine games in 2015.

The wideout's health setbacks began in training camp last year, when he suffered a serious calf strain in a closed walkthrough practice before Chicago's preseason opener. Jeffery missed all four exhibition games. His season was shut down in December with a hamstring injury.

"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. Me and my agent talked about it and felt it was best for me to train somewhere else."

Jeffery is one of the Bears' top players on offense, catching 54 passes for 807 yards and four touchdowns last season. He tied a franchise record with three straight 100-yard receiving games against Detroit, Minnesota and San Diego.

Jeffery currently has a dozen 100-yard receiving games in his four seasons with the Bears, tied for fifth-most in franchise history. He set career highs with 89 catches for 1,421 yards in 2013. Jeffery also hauled in 10 touchdowns in 2014.

"It's good to have him here, and he looks in good shape," coach John Fox said. "He looks ready to roll, and obviously we didn't take it to the limit the first day back, but I thought he looked good."