6

TE Jimmy Graham responds to critics of Bears’ move: ‘I’m still fast’

The Bears’ decision to sign veteran tight end Jimmy Graham to a two-year contract that included $9 million guaranteed and a no-trade clause — on the heels of him being released by division rival Green Bay — was arguably the most universally panned move in free agency, but Graham insisted on Thursday that he still can perform at an elite level.cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

“I’m still fast. … I still have the ability to make big plays,” Graham said during a conference call with Chicago media.

A third-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 2010 NFL draft, Graham quickly emerged as the game’s most feared pass-catching tight end, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in just his second season (2011) with 99 receptions, 1,310 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Graham, 33, would eventually be named to five Pro Bowls over stints with New Orleans (2010-14) and Seattle (2015-17) before agreeing a free-agent deal with Green Bay in 2018.
Green Bay released Graham on March 12.6

“Obviously, it was a tough pill to swallow,” Graham said. “It was the first time I lost my job. And I work extremely hard. I’ve sacrificed everything for this game. I’ve given it everything I have, and obviously to go through that, it was difficult. Now I have the opportunity to win a bunch of games this year and I’m very grateful for that, and I’m obviously grateful for the opportunity and the friendships I did make just up north there. But for me, it’s lit a fire.

“I know what player I am and I know what I can do. I think I was able to show a little bit of that in the playoffs with some of the opportunities I was given. And after being 10 years in, I’ve only missed six games. That’s coming off of, at times, all kinds of injuries … at times I’ve kind of been on ice the last two years, so my knee right now is the best it’s felt in four or five years. This is the best that I’ve ran, this is the fastest I’ve been in the last four or five years. I’m going to get back to being me. I’m going to get back to making big plays and scoring touchdowns because I think I’m somewhere in the top of scoring touchdowns and I want to continue that. I want to continue climbing that list and get to where I’m supposed to be.”

Chicago had the NFL‘s least productive group of tight ends in 2019. The Bears did not have a tight end reach 100 receiving yards — J.P. Holtz led the team with 91 — or 15 receptions as Chicago, overall, ranked near the bottom in total offense, points scored, rushing offense and passing offense.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

Graham joins a tight end room that includes often-injured Trey Burton (guaranteed $6.7 million in 2020), 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen (26 career catches for 249 yards), Ben Braunecker and veteran Demetrius Harris, whom Chicago added in February.

The Bears are also in the midst of a quarterback competition. Chicago traded a fourth-round compensatory draft pick to Jacksonville for veteran quarterback Nick Foles, who is expected to challenge 2017 second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job.