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Jeffery ecstatic to return to practice

Having returned to Halas Hall Monday after serving a four-game suspension, Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery practiced Wednesday for the first time in more than a month.

"It felt great," said Jeffery, who ranks sixth on the Bears' all-time receiving list with 4,358 yards. "I was excited to get back out there with my guys. I missed playing football."

Jeffery told reporters that he felt he let his teammates down. But he declined to divulge which supplement caused him to violate the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

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Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery practiced Wednesday for the first time in more than a month.

"I'm not going to talk about what happened or who recommended it," Jeffery said. "I'm going to own up to it and I accept the punishment. At the end of the day, it's my name on it, so I'm moving forward with it. It is what it is. I learned from it. That's all I can say."

The Bears went 1-3 in the games that Jeffery missed. In all three losses, they had a chance to take the lead on their final drive but failed to do so. Against the Titans and Lions, they turned the ball over on downs in the last minute after their young receivers dropped passes.

"It was pretty tough just watching, knowing there's nothing you can do," Jeffery said. "You've just got to cheer the guys on, hoping they can pull it out. I feel like if I was playing, some of those games we would have had a different outcome. We probably would have won."

Barred from Halas Hall during his suspension, Jeffery said that he traveled to Washington because he wanted to be somewhere he could focus on training without any distractions. He did some yoga, tried not to watch too much television and stayed off social media.

While Jeffery felt he let his teammates down, he doesn't feel that he has to earn back their trust.

"My teammates and my coaches, they supported me," he said. "I don't think I ever lost their trust. They stuck with me, they stayed by me. They embraced me with nothing but love."

Jeffery has only played briefly with new Bears quarterback Matt Barkley—in a Week 7 loss in Green Bay—but the two have a history. Jeffery committed to USC out of high school and was going to be part of the same Trojans recruiting class as Barkley. But Jeffery ultimately enrolled at South Carolina.

"I was trying to get him to come to USC and he did go to USC, just not the one I wanted him to go to," Barkley said. "We knew each other through a high-school all-star game, so we've known each other for a while. He was a big target you could throw the ball to in high school. That relationship eased my transition when I first got here. Now getting to throw to him, it's fun playing with him again."

Barkley and Jeffery spent extra time on the practice field together Wednesday in preparing for Sunday's rematch against the Packers at Soldier Field.

"It was good to have him back, just a guy that's been here the longest on offense now and knows what he's doing," Barkley said. "He's a great threat for us. To get back on the same page, we stayed after practice and got some reps just to make sure I'm seeing him getting in on breaks and he's understanding what I'm thinking on some certain routes. He came back looking strong today, strong and lean, so he should be good to go Sunday."

Jeffery possesses a skill set unlike any other Bears receiver, so throwing to him will force Barkley to make some adjustments.

"He's running routes I've thrown before, so he's not a completely foreign route-runner to me," Barkley said. "It's just some of the little things; getting used to putting it high on deep balls to where he can go up and get some of those deep balls or just how he does get in and out of some breaks on certain routes. If he sticks to his depths and what I'm used to, we should be good to go."

Playing under the franchise tag this season, Jeffery has caught 40 passes for 630 yards and one touchdown in nine games. Asked how he thinks the suspension will affect his earning potential as a free agent next year, Jeffery insisted that he's focused on the present, not the future.

"There's nothing I can do about it," Jeffery said. "All I can do is try to work hard. Hopefully whatever happens at the end of this season is something good. We're just trying to finish these last three games 3-0. That's all that matters. Contract stuff will take care of itself."

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