Bears CB Jaylon Johnson: Absence was because 'I'm a dad first'
By Courtney Cronin,2023-06-07
Chicago's top corner, who is entering his fourth NFL season, has not yet signed a new deal with the team that drafted him 50th overall in 2020. Johnson said last week on ESPN Radio's "Keyshawn, JWill and Max" that his absence stemmed from wanting to spend time with his daughter and fundraise for his non-profit, both of which took place in his hometown of Fresno, California.
Johnson downplayed the notion that he was staying away from Halas Hall because he has not received a contract extension from the Bears.
"Not even close. No," Johnson said. "Anybody who knows me, that's not my character. I think at the end of the day, for me, I wouldn't even say holding out, just having prior priorities. At the end of the day, everybody knows I have a 3-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. I don't get to spend too much time with her during the season because she's back at home in California."
The 24-year-old cornerback said that he communicated to Bears coaches his desire to spend time with his daughter, who does not live with him during the season, and that "they understood and hopefully respected" his decision.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to be there for my daughter because they can find another corner," Johnson said. "My daughter can't find another dad. I take pride in that."
Johnson's foundation, Kevvy's Vision, honors his best friend, who died by gun violence in 2021. The foundation held a golf outing over the weekend that was attended by Bears quarterback Justin Fields .
Bears coach Matt Eberflus praised Johnson on Wednesday for staying engaged while the cornerback was away from the team. Johnson said the communication "never stopped" with the Bears, between taking part in team meetings virtually and checking in with his position coach, Jon Hoke, multiple times throughout the week.
Johnson is one of six Bears players eligible for a contract extension, a list that also includes tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Darnell Mooney . The cornerback said he is not "stressed" about the timing of when a deal could get done but wants to remain in Chicago long term.
"A hundred percent," he said. "I look forward to staying and extending with the Bears."
Asked whether he is currently represented by an agent, Johnson said he is "transitioning" and will be signing with an agent in the future.
General manager Ryan Poles has yet to strike a deal with any Bears players drafted before his arrival in 2022. Last year, former Bears linebacker Roquan Smith demanded a trade after failing to come to an agreement with the team on a new deal during the offseason. Smith ended his training camp holdout in mid-August and played in eight games with Chicago before being dealt to the Baltimore Ravens last November. In March, Smith signed a five-year, $100 million contract extension with the Ravens to make him the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history.
Johnson said Smith's situation with the Bears does not have any effect on his.
"His situation is different than my situation," Johnson said. "It's Roquan Smith at the end of the day. But I'm not him, he's not me. My timing is different than his timing. I'm not too caught up in that."
Added Johnson: "I don't feel any type of way. I'm not going to feel any way until a deal gets done. Or until [it's said that a deal] is not being done."