Bears rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has 16 catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: January 9, 2013 6:12AM
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery typically downplayed his expected return to the Bears’ lineup Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings after missing two games because of a knee injury.
Jeffery’s value to the Bears has been significant since the day he was drafted. But it’s even higher with Earl Bennett out because of a concussion.
‘‘I wouldn’t say the team needs me,’’ he said Friday. ‘‘We all need each other. We win as a team.’’
Still, Jeffery seems like the best bet to boost a passing offense that ranks 31st in the NFL despite Brandon Marshall’s 1,182 yards, third-best in the league.
Jeffery’s three-catch, 80-yard game against the Indianapolis Colts in the season opener is the only single-game yardage total by a Bears receiver that would crack Marshall’s top 10.
His two touchdowns are twice as many as Bennett and Devin Hester — the only Bears wide receivers other than Marshall to catch touchdown passes this season.
Jeffery, though, has missed six of the last seven games.
He missed four weeks after suffering a broken hand Oct. 22 against the Detroit Lions.
He returned Nov. 10 against the San Francisco 49ers and caught two passes from second-string quarterback Jason Campbell for 15 yards before suffering a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.
So Jeffery, who has 16 receptions for 199 yards, hasn’t caught a pass from Jay Cutler in two months.
‘‘We’re excited to have him back,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. ‘‘But I want to temper that by [saying] we haven’t had him for any length of time this year to get him really in a groove.
‘‘He’s shown in the games he has played that he can be a talent for us and certainly a complement to Brandon.
‘‘So that really helps us because when they try to key on Brandon, we really have two go-to guys on the field at the same time.’’
As expected, cornerback Tim Jennings will not play against the Vikings after suffering a shoulder injury last week when he collided with Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson.
Kelvin Hayden, who has four fumble recoveries, will start for Jennings.
‘‘The situation at hand [with Jennings’ injury], you don’t wish that upon anybody,’’ Hayden said.
‘‘It’s always good to be out there every play, having fun, making plays and enjoying the moment.’’
The Bears will be without four regulars: linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring), guard Lance Louis (knee), Jennings and Bennett.
Running back Michael Bush (ribs), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (foot) and guard Chris Spencer (knee) are questionable.
Hester is cleared to play after missing last week’s game against the Seahawks because of a concussion.
‘‘I’m ready to go,’’ he said.