Alshon Jeffery insists that returning to Chicago for the first time on Sunday as a member of the Eagles holds no special emotional attachment. A second-round draft pick by the Bears in 2012, Jeffery enjoyed some good times with the Bears as a go-to wide receiver. There were also some down times.
But all of that is in the past.
Jeffery has his focus on the now as the Eagles prepare for Sunday's NFC Wild Card game in Chicago (4:40 p.m., NBC).
"It's all about the game for me," Jeffery said. "I'm not around there anymore. I'm here. It's about me doing what I can do to prepare to win a football game on Sunday."
So much for sentimentality. Jeffery doesn't have much in this case. He played five seasons with the Bears before becoming an unrestricted free agent and signing with the Eagles in the offseason prior to the 2017 campaign, and he had two brilliant seasons – 2013 and 2014 – when Jeffery scored a combined 17 touchdowns to go along with 174 receptions and 2,554 yards. He was a Pro Bowl wide receiver and everything was going swimmingly.
But Jeffery encountered injuries, among them a hamstring injury, and a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. By the time his time with the Bears wound down, the relationship had soured and Jeffery was glad to move on.
"My first two years there (actually three), I had a lot of fun there," Jeffery said. "I mean, it definitely was a lot of fun. It is what it is now. I'm here, in Philly, so I'm not dwelling on the past."
Sunday is all about football for Jeffery, who played against the Bears last season at Lincoln Financial Field and had five receptions, 52 yards, and a touchdown in a November 26 Eagles victory.
"I'm just going to go out there and play football, man," Jeffery said. "I'm focused on the game, honestly. If I see some people that I know or some familiar faces, I'll speak to them, but otherwise, I'm just focused on the football game."
Jeffery said that his excitement level for this game is "on 1,000 for me," as he looks to stay hot in an Eagles offense that has found its stride. Jeffery missed the first three games of the season as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, but came on strong and contributed 65 receptions, 843 yards, and six touchdowns. Jeffery has been dynamic beating coverages in the last month with 22 catches, two touchdowns, and 351 yards in the last four games.
"He's in a really good groove right now," said offensive coordinator Mike Groh, who was Jeffery's wide receivers coach in Chicago during Jeffery's best seasons there. "I think he is playing with a lot of confidence. That catch for a touchdown the other day (at Washington against cornerback Josh Norman) is as good a catch as you can make with a guy trying to rip the ball out of there. Just shows how strong his hands are."
Just as important, Groh has seen Jeffery blossom into a knowing, veteran player.
"I think certainly from just a maturity standpoint, the way he approaches each and every day and each and every practice," Groh said. "The way he takes care of himself, and certainly from a competitive maturity standpoint. He understands the moment and what it takes and when he has to ramp it up and when he has to make plays to help us win."