Byron Pringle knows he didn’t make the right type of headlines in his first couple of months as a Chicago Bears wide receiver.
He was arrested in April in Florida for reckless driving and driving while his license was suspended after an officer suspected him of doing a donut on the road with a child and another passenger in the car.
But if Bears fans will allow him to reintroduce himself, here’s what he wants them to know.
“I’m just a hardworking man,” he said. “I love the game. Things happen.”
Pringle didn’t expand much on the incident in his first comments to the media after Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp practice at Halas Hall, saying he had “no thoughts on it.” He pleaded not guilty to the charges, asked for a trial by jury and has a pretrial court date set for July 5, according to Pasco County records.
He said he spoke with general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus before the news came out in the media and “everything’s squared away in house.”
That echoed what Poles told the media just a few days after the arrest. Poles, who knew Pringle from their four years together in Kansas City, said the Bears were in “a good place” with Pringle and that the incident was “not a reflection of who he is at all.”
Pringle tweeted after his media availability: “I’m just here to play football not answer (clown) questions.”
So the focus since the arrest has been about how Pringle can make positive headlines with a Bears offense that needs some wide receivers to step up alongside Darnell Mooney.
Eberflus has been pleased with what he has seen from Pringle during practices the last several weeks.
“He does a really good job and is an explosive athlete, and he’s strong,” Eberflus said . “He’s got a strong set of hands to catch it in traffic and he does a really good job (with) yards after catch. He can break some tackles, you can feel his strength his and you can see that on tape. We like where he is.”
Pringle, who signed a one-year contract worth $4 million guaranteed this offseason, has a big opportunity to increase his production from a career-best 42 catches for 568 yards and five touchdowns in 2021. He was fifth in catches — and the third wide receiver — on the potent Chiefs offense run by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Now, the 28-year-old former undrafted free agent from Kansas State is part of a collection of Bears receivers with a lot to prove after Poles made mostly modest offseason additions at the position.
Mooney is the only Bears wide receiver on the roster with a better season production-wise than Pringle had in 2021. Tajae Sharpe had 41 catches for 522 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie in 2016. Poles also drafted rookie Velus Jones Jr. in the third round last month.
So while running back David Montgomery and tight end Cole Kmet are likely to be involved in the passing game, too, there’s room for a newcomer to break out. Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis are among the other players looking for that shot.
Pringle brushed off questions about individual goals and instead said he’s trying to execute at a high level, win and have fun, something Mahomes tried to make sure his teammates always were doing. And Pringle believes they can do that behind quarterback Justin Fields and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy despite years of offensive struggles in Chicago.
“I always keep a smile on my face wherever I go, so I’m keeping that positive energy,” Pringle said. “Coming here, we ain’t worried about the past. We’re trying to go forward. We’re trying to go up. We’re not looking back at what happened in the past, and as a unit, we’re trying to be better, hold each other accountable.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said at the NFL owners meeting a couple of months ago that Pringle would “play his heart out” and “still will continue to grow because he works so hard.”
That’s why Pringle thinks he can make better news in the months ahead.
“I never try to stay at one level,” Pringle said. “I keep trying to keep going forward. … I don’t try to be the same player, the same dude. I try to learn something every day.”