The Bears will miss Lance Briggs. And move on.
“Lance is obviously one of our leaders. Tremendous player,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said Sunday after the Bears practiced at Halas Hall for Thursday night’s game against the Cowboys at Soldier Field. “He’s been in the league a long time. And he will be missed.”
Briggs’ career with the Bears appears all but over after he was placed on injured reserve on Friday. He leaves as one of the greatest Bears in franchise history, but also as a symbol of the awkward transition from Lovie Smith to Marc Trestman and Tucker. Briggs, who missed only four games in 10 years under Lovie, played just 17 games in two seasons under Trestman.
“Obviously he’s a playmaker,” Tucker said. “And he’s got a ton of experience. And I thought he was a good teammate and has always been willing to help the younger guys. And it was important to him. He’s done it for a long time. The average career is, what, 3.5 years, something like that. So for a guy to be able to do it for that long at such a high level, he’s a special player.”
Briggs’ absence will provide an opportunity for younger linebackers to to step up — something that has not happened so far in the Tucker era. Jon Bostic will be the full-time starter at Briggs’ weak side spot. Rookie Christian Jones will get more snaps in the nickel defense.
“Jon has good instincts,” Tucker said. “He’s got good speed. He runs and he hits. And he’s strong at the point of attack. He has good movement skills in coverage.”
It’s a big opportunity for Bostic, but he wasn’t making too much of it.
“It definitely is a good opportunity any time you can go out and compete and help this team win,” Bostic said. “We’ve got to get back on track. that’s our thing. We’ve got to get better and we know that.
“For me, it’s just really any time they call on me, whether it’s Mike, Sam, Will, it really doesn’t matter. You go out there and compete. I’m having fun with the guys I’m going to work with every day. That’s what I’m enjoying. That’s the fun part.”
Bostic already is missing Briggs.
“It’s definitely hard seeing him go down the way he did,” Bostic said. “I learned so much [from Briggs] — more than I can state and I’m still learning from him. We talk about things each and every day. Even during that Detroit game [last Thursday] — middle of the game, he’s saying, ‘You need to do this. You need to do that.’ Really just keep improving. That’s my thing. Just keep learning each and every day.”
Defensive end Jared Allen, who joined the Bears this season, said Briggs “was one of the reasons I came here.”
“It’s tough. He’s a big presence on that field, not only playing against him, but playing with him,” Allen said. “When he’s out there, there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t in the stat sheet that he does so well from a communication standpoint. Just his overall football knowledge, his football IQ is very high.
“It’s nice when you’ve got a guy like that out on the football field with you, so he’s going to be missed. He was one of the reasons why I came here, was to play with him. Now him and Peanut are gone. So, it’s part of the league, it’s part of this game, it happens and it just sucks that it happened. But you’ve got to move on.”
Defensive end Willie Young, also a first-time Bears in 2014, said he hopes Briggs will still be around the team to help it through some tough times.
“Sideline presence for us right now is crucial,” Young said. “Just having Lance there — obviously him playing the game for 45 years, being able to look over there, he can absolutely see everything that’s going on as if he was a coach.
“He always has the right speech for you. I jumped offside at home two weeks ago. He gave me a look. He looked right in my eyes and it was just like, he didn’t say much. I don’t know exactly what he said. But the way he looked at me was like, ‘you owe me one next play,’ or something like that. and that was it. and you can easily be disappointed by jumping off side. But ‘next play. Third down? So what. Next play. Let’s play ball.’ “