Linebacker Lance Briggs went through much of the past decade surrounded by a cast of friends that had some changes, but not really that many of his closests. Hunter Hillenmeyer, Nathan Vasher, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris. Injuries and declining play were the usual causes.
But in the past 12 months, the cuts have been far deeper. Brian Urlacher. Devin Hester. Julius Peppers. Almost Charles Tillman. And business or not, it has hurt.
“At this point, I’m losing a brother every year, one or two brothers every year,” Tillman said this week on NFL Network’s “NFL AM.” “But this is where it is.”
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Briggs also knows that a year from now, the list is likely to grow by one, possibly two: “It’s great that I don’t have to make that type of decision because I would never let them go,” Briggs said. “I know that my day is going to come just like everybody else’s.”
What he hopes will delay that day or at least help him keep his level of play as high as it can be will be wearing a harness for the fractured shoulder that cost him. He used a double version of it when he returned for the last couple games of last season.
“For the last two games when I decided to come back and play, I told them to double-harness me down,” Briggs said. “I don’t want any movement at all because I was worried that any slight fall or hit the wrong way that it would damage it.”
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Briggs’ injury during the Washington game accelerated the death spiral the defense underwent last season. Now he is intent on being back, a course he expects for the entire defense.
“For one, key word, we need to be healthy,” Briggs said. “We need Charles Tillman to be healthy, Jeremiah Ratliff to be healthy. All the pieces that we have, we’re bringing in new guys as far as Lamarr Houston, Ryan Mundy — these are new pieces that we’re going to have to have that are going to have to be effective.
“One thing I’ve always learned about our defense that Lovie [Smith] taught me, it’s not the defense — it’s the people that are within the defense. Player-wise, we weren’t effective last year; we didn’t get things done. When we were in position to make plays, we didn’t make the plays and we were very undisciplined. So for us, we have to get back to what works.”