BOURBONNAIS – It’s easy to forget based on how his season ended, but Lance Briggs tied for the Bears’ team lead with 10 tackles for loss in 2013.
He did that playing in only nine games because of a shoulder injury, and when he returned against the Eagles, and then the Packers, he was not the same Lance Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
We won’t know where the 33-year-old is truly at until Sept. 7 when the Bills come to Soldier Field, but we do know that Briggs is happy.
“I’m a happy guy. I’m happy I’m around a lot of guys, a lot of good men,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “And it’s fun to be around a lot of good men that know how to work hard and know what it takes to play this game.”
Briggs lamented about last season – “Last year was real rough” – and for this season, which also happens to be the final year of his contract, he said he's focused on, and only talking about football, unlike last time he was in a contract year.
“I just want to play football, man,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go. I’m here, I’m happy and I’m just appreciative.”
Part of that positive aura around the defense’s leader clearly goes to new linebackers coach Reggie Herring, a veteran NFL coach who has had an impact already.
“Reggie is a good guy. He gets after it. He’ll get after us. And he’s very old school,” Briggs said. “For me, it feels right when you have a coach that’s yelling at you and makes sure you’re doing the right things. He’s kind of like a young Bob Babich, kind of fiery in that way.”
Coach Marc Trestman knows what he saw from Briggs to start last season, and while he might not be as fast as he once was, the instincts still are there for Briggs to be an every-down linebacker.
“If he’s playing at full strength, like the way he started last season, we’re going to be a lot better football team all around,” Trestman said. “What he can do ripples through the entire team and special teams, and onto the offensive side, just by his athleticism and his experience, and leadership.”
The defense is better with Briggs in it, and he can continue to be helpful for the youngsters on the unit while also being a playmaker on the field. Whether this is his last year as a Bear won’t be known until after the season, most likely, but he has made it evident he wants to retire a Bear.
“I’m a true Bear. This is Year 12. I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears, and my heart to this city playing for this team,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, I’ll retire a Bear.”