Few of the Bears are more at ease and able to have fun with media than Lance Briggs, whose default setting in life when he’s not working seems to be the laugh.
But somehow what mirth there was on Tuesday at the Bears’ second OTA open to observation had a tinge of sadness. With obvious reason.
For the first time in his NFL career Briggs begins a season without Brian Urlacher. For the first time in his career there is no Israel Idonije, at least not yet, and Idonije came to the Bears in 2003, like Briggs. For the first time in six years there is no Nick Roach in his linebackers meeting room.
So when he was asked if he missed Idonije, still unsigned by anyone to this point in the offseason, Briggs’ answer was a tired, “I miss everybody, you guys,” and he walked off.
It now falls to Briggs as the longest-tenured member of the front seven in terms of time in Chicago to “be” Urlacher in the huddle, relaying coaches’ calls to the defense and making sure teammates are where they need to be.
“I just means continue to be me,” Briggs said. “I’m just vocal now.”
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Despite a minicamp and time in organized team activities, it is still “very different,” Briggs admitted. “I didn’t call the plays before and now I’m calling the plays. I just have a lot of respect… .
“I’ve been spoiled for the last 10 years.”
Briggs finds himself in another unusual role: mentor. Since he was the Bears’ third-round pick in 2003, the Bears had no need to draft a player projected to replace Briggs, a perennial Pro Bowl selection.
Now the organization has spent two of its top three draft choices on linebackers – Jon Bostic from Florida, Khaseem Greene from Rutgers – and Greene has been projected as a weakside linebacker.
Even so, Briggs still managed a chuckle at the rituals of another offseason.
“[Minicamps, OTAs and the rest] don’t get old,” he said. “I just get old.”
Briggs’ personal theme has been that for all of the typing of the Bears’ core defensive players as dottering, he described himself as fine wine, becoming better with age.
But that still is not making it any easier without some of his good friends.