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Emma: Alshon Jeffery's Mistake Comes At Major Cost

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) With the character he's constantly displayed, Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery deserves the benefit of the doubt that he took a banned supplement by mistake.

Jeffery is a team captain as voted by Bears teammates, and he's done nothing wrong to lose the trust in his words. But even a well-written statement can't prevent the four-game suspension handed out by the NFL on Monday for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, as well as the major damage to follow.

"As a professional athlete, I have been careful about what I put in my body," Jeffery wrote in a statement. "I took a recommended supplement to combat inflammation. Unfortunately this supplement contained an ingredient that was on the NFL's banned substance list."

Unfortunately, there's not much that Jeffery could say or do to prevent the hit that's coming his way. The $3.44 million in forfeited salary lost during these next four weeks is just the base to the punishment Jeffery is going to endure.

Playing out a contract season -- one that's been largely unfulfilling to this point -- Jeffery just lost four games of potential spectacular catches, touchdowns and production needed to prove his place. He has just one touchdown in nine games this season and hasn't been afforded the chance to play like an elite target.

Jeffery just lost himself the chance to get paid like a top receiver this offseason. He surely won't be joining the ranks of Julio Jones and Dez Bryant come potential pay day -- at least not this spring.

Tory Dandy, the agent to Jeffery, didn't respond for comment. Jeffery's only comments came through his written statement. He was forced to leave Halas Hall after his suspension was applied Monday. Teammates have defended Jeffery's character and stood by him in the aftermath of the suspension. Coach John Fox backed his top receiver, too.

"Obviously we're very disappointed," Fox said. "I think he's fairly embarrassed about it. But we'll support him and welcome him when he gets back."

But with the Bears sitting at 2-7 and going nowhere fast, the absence of Jeffery won't mean much to the team. Jeffery's mistake is most costly to himself.

Jeffery's future is now in jeopardy. If he does earn a long-term contract with the Bears, it won't be for the price he desired back in August.

As for the Bears, they must now figure their plans for Jeffery. They can either tender the franchise tag for a second straight season or settle on a price. If the Bears so choose to tag Jeffery, they then also have the option of trading him away.

Letting Jeffery walk at no return would be foolish. Plus, the Bears must consider Jeffery more of a priority as the long-term future of Kevin White is largely unknown after his second surgery in as many seasons.

Frankly, if general manager Ryan Pace is confident enough in Jeffery to ink a long-term deal, he can use these four fewer games to sign as a lower price.

First, the top priority for the Bears needs to be figuring out how Jeffery unknowingly took a banned substance. Jeffery is the fourth player to be suspended for PEDs since Fox and Pace came to the Bears. Tayo Fabuluje, no longer with the Bears, and Ego Ferguson each admitted that they were unaware the supplement they took illegal. Camp invitee Jalen Saunders was the other to violate the policy.

Somebody within the organization has to take accountability. Jeffery made the error his own.

"I take full responsibility and I'm deeply upset with myself for not doing the proper research on this supplement," he wrote. "I want to apologize to my family, the Bears organization, my teammates, and Bears fans. I will work hard to earn back the respect and trust of the Bears nation and look forward to being back on the field."

What lies beyond those final three games of 2016 remains to be seen. Jeffery lost bargaining power against the Bears in his next round of negotiations. The team now must figure out if he's still part of their plans or if a move should be made.

Jeffery didn't mean to make this mistake, but he has millions of reasons to be disappointed.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago's sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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