Byron Pringle knows he didn’t make the right headlines in his first few months as a Chicago Bears wide receiver.
He was arrested in Florida in April for reckless driving and driving while having his license revoked after an officer suspected him of doing a donut with a child and another passenger in the car on the way.
But if Bears fans allow him to re-introduce himself, here’s what he wants them to know.
“I’m just a hard-working man,” he said. “I love the game. Things happen.”
Pringle didn’t elaborate much on the incident in his initial comments to the media after Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp exercise at Halas Hall, saying he “had no thoughts about it”. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, asked for a jury trial and has set a preliminary court date for July 5, according to Pasco County data.
He said he spoke to general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus before the news hit the media and “everything is settled in the house.”
That echoed what Poles said to the media 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 “didn’t reflect who he is at all.”
Pringle tweeted after his media availability: “I’m just here to play football and not to answer (clown) questions.”
So the focus since the arrest has been how Pringle can make positive headlines with a Bears offense that needs some wide receivers to perform alongside Darnell Mooney.
Eberflus is pleased with what he has seen during Pringle’s training sessions in recent weeks.
“He’s doing a really good job and is an explosive athlete, and he’s strong,” said Eberflus. “He’s got a strong set of hands to catch it in traffic and he’s doing really well (with) yards after catch. He can break some tackles, you can feel his power and you can see it on tape. We love where he is.”
Pringle, who signed a one-year contract worth $4 million guaranteed this off-season, has a big chance 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 receiver wide – on the powerful Chiefs offense run by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Now the 28-year-old former undrafted Kansas State free agent is part of a collection of Bears receivers who have a lot to prove after Poland made mostly modest offseason additions to the position.
Mooney is the only Bears wide receiver on the roster to have a better season in production than Pringle had in 2021. Tajae Sharpe had 41 catches for 522 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie in 2016. Poland also drafted rookie Velus Jones Jr. up in the match. third round last month.
So while David Montgomery running backs and tight end Cole Kmet will likely be involved in the passing game as well, there’s room for a newcomer to break out. Even-tempered St. Brown and Dante Pettis are among the other players looking for that shot.
Pringle brushed aside questions about individual goals and instead said he tries to perform at a high level, win and have fun, something Mahomes tried to assure his teammates always did. And Pringle believes they can do that behind quarterback Justin Fields and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, despite years of offensive battle in Chicago.
“I always have a smile on my face wherever I go, so I keep that positive energy,” said Pringle. “When we come here, we don’t worry about the past. We’re trying to get ahead. We’re trying to go up. We don’t look back to what happened in the past, and as a unit we try to be better, hold each other accountable.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said at the NFL owners’ meeting a few months ago that Pringle “would play his heart out” and “will continue to grow because he works so hard.”
That is why Pringle thinks it will be able to make better news in the coming months.
“I never try to stay on one level,” Pringle said. “I keep trying to get ahead. … I’m not trying to be the same player, the same guy. I’m trying to learn something every day.”