After missing 4 games with hand injury, Jeffery eager to provide Bears complementary big target along with Marshall
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter
8:03 p.m. CST, November 17, 2012
Alshon Jeffery says he want to "take it to another notch" with the rookie wide receiver set to return to action Monday night against the 49ers in San Francisco.
The Bears listed Jeffery probable after he fully participated in Saturday's practice. The second-round pick from South Carolina has missed the last four games after suffering a broken right hand on a 10-yard touchdown reception in the Oct. 7 victory at Jacksonville when Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis twisted back one of his fingers on the play.
Jeffery will give backup quarterback Jason Campbell another big target across from Brandon Marshall and pre-injury he was particularly effective in the red zone and on third down. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice had been giving Jeffery (14 receptions, 184 yards, two touchdowns) more work seemingly each week.
"We were taking advantage of the opportunities given us, how other teams were playing us," Jeffery said. "You can't cover just one person in our offense."
"Hopefully I can (pick up where I left off). Just take it to another notch, the whole receiving corps, it's the second half (of the season)."
Country strong: 49ers defensive end Justin Smith presents quite a challenge for left guard Chilo Rachal and left tackle J'Marcus Webb. Smith, 33, is one of the strongest players in the NFL and has the ability to collapse the pocket in pass-rushing situations and is stout against the run.
That is how special teams coordinator Dave Toub recalled Smith. Toub spent 12 seasons at Missouri as a strength and defensive line assistant. His final year there was the last for Smith, who the Bengals made the fourth overall pick of the 2001 draft.
"He grew up baling hay," Toub said of Smith, who was raised on a 1,200-acre cattle ranch outside of Jefferson City, Mo. "That's what he did. He threw the hay bales up on the truck. He was doing power cleans and he didn't even know it his whole life.
"He power-cleaned 400 pounds in college, from the ground to his chest. He is freak strong. No question he was the strongest player and the best athlete I ever had in 12 years there. It's not only being strong, it's explosive. He is powerful."
QB watch: The 49ers listed quarterback Alex Smith as questionable after he practiced three times during the week with a black jersey signaling no contact. The Bears don't seem too worked up whether they face Smith, who suffered a concussion last week, or Colin Kaepernick.
"I am sure they will say there is a big difference but we can't look at it like that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "They are both good quarterbacks, similar athletes. Either one that plays doesn't really matter an awful lot for us. I don't think their game plan will change an awful lot."
Up and down: Tight end Kellen Davis was the last player on the practice field Saturday with quarterbacks Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard, running routes and catching passes. He called the loss to the Texans last week the worst game of his career but tight ends coach Mike DeBord pointed out much more went in to the analysis of his performance than a fumble and a drop.
"He probably had one of his best games blocking," DeBord said. "I am talking about run game and pass protection. When you break it down, the first play (when he fumbled), as soon as he turned around he got smacked. He had no chance to brace himself. The one slant he should have caught, no doubt.
"Then the last play (down the seam) would have been an unbelievable catch because he's in mid-air and the ball (is behind him). It would have been an unbelievable catch. … We're not down on Kellen Davis, not at all."
It's possible fullback Evan Rodriguez will see some work at tight end against the 49ers. He has yet to catch a pass in regular season.
Familiar foe: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called Rachal "one of my personal favorites" on the team a season ago. Rachal lost his starting job in San Francisco after three games but Harbaugh's evaluation gives you an idea what type of person the Bears added to the mix.
"He has done a fabulous job," Harbaugh said. "I've watched him on tape. He has been very consistent. Really pleased he is doing well. I always liked him."
Rachal only had positive things to say about his four seasons with the 49ers and said anything else would require negative energy.
"It's not really more motivation," Rachal said. "I'm going to treat it just like I do every week, just to go out and work hard and execute. It's going to be fun."