Briggs giving game his all, and appreciating it more

Veteran Bears linebacker savors everything as he adds to Pro Bowl legacy

Brian Urlacher may play on opening day. He may not.

He may run like the Urlacher of old. He may not.

The uncertainty of Urlacher's situation makes the certainty of Lance Briggs' situation all the more comforting.

Briggs answered the bell consistently in training camp, turning down opportunities for days off.

"I love being on the field," Briggs said. "I don't want to miss any of it."

The Bears' appreciation for Briggs was evident when they extended his contract through 2014 in the offseason, giving him another $7 million in guaranteed money. Briggs' appreciation for the Bears is evident by the way he has been approaching his job at 31.

"Lance Briggs never has been into football as much as he is now," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Briggs never was close to being a first in, last out guy. He has been reputed to be an athlete who liked to wear the party hat. He often let his weight go in the offseason.

This offseason, he spent four weeks in Raleigh, N.C., to train at North Carolina State. Briggs was following strength coach Corey Edmond from Arizona, where Briggs had worked with him previously.

"His workouts are not easy at all," Briggs said. "They can be punishing. He forces you to work. I love it."

Briggs has been hanging around Halas Hall a bit longer these days. He is paying closer attention to details and taking more pride in the mundane aspects of his job. His focus is sharp. He competes in practice, running out plays like a young guy trying to prove himself.

What changed?

"Back when I was young, it seemed like there was no end in sight," Briggs said. "When there is an end in sight, you value every day more than before. When I was young, I wanted to get in, practice, get out. Now, I want to get in, enjoy practice, take more from it, more than I did before.

"The reality has hit that you can't play this game forever. I'm not taking anything for granted, that's all. A lot of people take a lot of things for granted, and when it's over there are a lot of things they wish they would have changed. So I'm enjoying every day, every moment."

Time has a funny way of bringing focus to an athlete. Briggs talks about teammates and friends he has seen come and go.

He misses Tommie Harris. Adewale Ogunleye, too. And Anthony Adams. Olin Kreutz, even.

He enjoyed catching up with Rex Grossman when the Bears and Redskins played in the preseason. They came to the Bears in the same 2003 draft class way back when.

How could all those teammates be gone so quickly?

Briggs has been around long enough to start thinking about his legacy.

CHICAGO

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