Jimmy Graham hauled in a surprising two-year, $16 million deal with the Bears and Chicago immediately caught plenty of criticism for the move that puzzled a plethora of pundits and fans, alike.
In his first chance to address the media on Thursday, Graham proclaimed that he’s still got it.
"I’m still fast," he said, via ESPN. "I still have the ability to make big plays."
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That’s in doubt considering his recent statistical output and the fact that the rival Packers released him. But the 6-foot-7 former Saint, Seahawk and Packer who was once one of the very best at his position said the release has served as kindling.
"It was the first time I lost my job," Graham said. "It’s lit a fire."
Graham’s production was largely extinguished in his two seasons of struggle with the Packers as his two campaigns saw him produce just five touchdowns, 93 receptions and 1,083 yards combined.
In the last of his five Pro Bowl years, Graham had 10 touchdowns with the Seahawks in 2017, but his nose for the end zone was really the only remnant from his star turn in New Orleans, highlighted by an All-Pro 2013 showing in which he led the NFL with 16 touchdowns, as he likewise garnered 86 catches and 1,215 yards.
"I know what player I am and I know what I can do," Graham said. "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."
Though Graham’s productivity has waned, the level of quarterback he’s played with has not. From Drew Brees to Russell Wilson to Aaron Rodgers, Graham has caught balls from the NFL’s best. Now he’ll head into a Bears offense rife with concerns at the position as Mitchell Trubisky is fast drifting past draft bust to draft blunder and the Bears’ biggest offseason move thus far has been trading for Nick Foles. Just who will be throwing to Graham, fast as he might well be, will be a prevailing storyline.
But he’s caught up to speed with that, as well.
"Obviously that’s kind of one of the big stories this offseason is our quarterback room," Graham said, "but I’m excited to work with both of them and to see where I can help both of them and where we can all get on the same page."
For Graham and the Bears’ quarterback situation, turning the page on past struggles is what Chicago and its fans are hoping for the most.
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