LAKE FOREST — When he looked onto the field during Wednesday’s workout at Halas Hall, Matt Eberflus had to feel a little better about the attendance.
That’s because three players who’ve been absent from the previous workouts were on the field for the final voluntary OTA workout.
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson and guard Nate Davis, who were healthy to take part in previous practices but didn’t, were on the field Wednesday. Safety Eddie Jackson, who continues his recovery from a foot injury last November, was also able to get on-field work done as well.
Johnson’s absence was the one that created the most chatter among fans and media since he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. On Wednesday, he made it clear that wasn’t the reason that he wasn’t present during the previous voluntary OTA sessions.
“If anybody knows me, that’s not my character,” said Johnson when asked if his time away from the team was in any way contract related. “I think at the end of the day, for me, I wouldn’t even say holding out, just having prior priorities, and at the end of the day, everybody knows I have a three-year-old daughter back at home in California, and I’m a dad before I’m anything else.
“Before I’m a football player, before I’m anything, I’m a dad first. So I don’t get to spend too much time with her during the season because she’s back at home in California. So me in the offseason, I take pride in being a dad, not just any old type of dad that just comes and sees their kid whenever. No, I’m present in my time, I’m putting my heart into my time with my daughter.”
Johnson said he expressed the importance of family when talking with the Bears’ coaches, including Eberflus, who was eager to welcome back the cornerback this week.
“He was working and he came back ready,” said Ebeflus of Johnson. “We always ramp guys in, so we ramped him into individual and now we’re ramping him into the reps for team reps.”
Eberflus had similar praise for Davis as he now begins preparations for his first season with the Bears. The same could be said for Jackson, who suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Week 12 against the Jets last November, as he begins preparations for his seventh season with the Bears.
“Eddie has worked his tail off to get back to where he is,” said Ebeflus of Jackson, who has done individual workouts to start and is now getting into some team reps. “He’s in really good shape, working with the rehab staff, and I want to commend those guys, the training staff, of getting him back, and commend Eddie also for the hard work that he’s put in to get to this point.”
He’ll likely be on the field again when the Bears host their mandatory mini-camp at Halas Hall June 13-15.