BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The situation didn’t appear serious at the time and may not be — seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs finishing a play and coming off walking gingerly on his left leg. He didn’t return to practice and finished the day with an icebag on his left knee, from what was a case of bumping knees with a teammate on the play.
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But Briggs, already not expected to play Friday night against the Philadelphia Eagles in preseason Game 1, has been paired with Jonathan Bostic as the linebackers in the No. 1 nickel personnel package. Briggs may return to practice, but coaches have given veterans days off, Briggs hasn’t had one yet and the situation from now through the Philadelphia game becomes a crucial opportunity to assess Shea McClellin in a role that projects prominently in his immediate future.
“He does play in the middle some in our nickel package and things like that,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “Those guys, we teach them on concept so they can be interchangeable and so they just don't have to memorize just one job at one position.
“Just understand the concept, understand the run fits as a concept, understand the coverages as a concept and then you can play multiple positions. But we do like what we're seeing so far from him. He's getting a lot of reps and so far the reps have been helping him.”
McClellin worked alongside Bostic through much of the nickel work during minicamps and OTA’s. But Briggs slid back into his nickel role once camp started and McClellin went with the 2’s.
After Briggs went out on Monday, McClellin was with the 1’s and drew a congratulatory pat from Briggs after breaking up a pass downfield, the key to his nickel fit.
“I’m feeling better and better each day,” McClellin told CSNChicago.com on Monday. “I’m going to make mistakes; nobody’s perfect. I’m still learning, have a lot to work on.
“The thing for me is that I’m probably my own worst enemy. I get on myself and coaches are always on me about getting onto the next play. I’m not the greatest at that and it’s something I’ve got to work on.”