Bears coach Lovie Smith downplays Lance Briggs’ posturing for contract
By Mark Potash and Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com August 29, 2011 11:00PM
Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber (24) is stopped by New York Giants' Dave Tollefson, left, J.T. Thomas, center, and Lance Briggs, right, during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Updated: November 20, 2011 2:21AM
Asked about the impact of linebacker Lance Briggs’ dissatisfaction with his contract, Bears coach Lovie Smith pointed to one of the fields at Halas Hall.
“I go on this right here,” Smith said. “Whether a player is disgruntled or something like that, I don’t know about any of that. But I base it on what they do every day.
“Lance hasn’t missed a meeting. He’s out here every day. Even when he’s injured — you see him — he’s coaching up the guys. I couldn’t be more pleased with Lance on the football field. As a pro, you have a job to do and you do it every day, and that’s what Lance has done.”
Briggs did not stop when approached by reporters after practice Monday.
Briggs has made the last six Pro Bowls, and he’s among the league’s top weak-side linebackers. But after a slew of new deals for linebackers around the league, his six-year, $36 million contract from 2008 has lost its luster.
He’s now the 20th highest-paid linebacker in the NFL.
At training camp, during an extensive interview, Briggs insisted he wasn’t worried about being cast in the shadow of fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher.
‘‘All that matters most to me is you pay a man for his work,’’ he said at the time.
But former Bears coach Mike Ditka told ESPN Radio 1000 that his former club cannot re-work his deal.
“I mean you just can’t do it,” Ditka said. “The Bears aren’t going to do it. Anybody in their right mind wouldn’t do it. If you do it, you’re a fool.”
Ditka said the club has to “draw a line in the sand.”
Smith said the team hasn’t decided who will play in the preseason finale Thursday against the Cleveland Browns, but he said he would stick to what he has done previously, meaning that starters will play briefly.
“If the player has any type of nick, injury-wise, we won’t play him much,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We normally go with that.”
A number of players are nicked up. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams (calf), running back Marion Barber (calf), Briggs (bruised knee), tight end Desmond Clark (bruised knee), tight end Kellen Davis (back), receiver Devin Hester (soreness), receiver Sam Hurd (ankle) and defensive end Corey Wootton (knee) didn’t practice Monday.
Running back Kahlil Bell has been with the Bears since 2009, but the team has empowered him during training camp and in preseason games. He has a team-high 28 carries for a team-high 4.7 yards per run.
“I think I’ve done pretty well, but I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Bell said.
He said being in the second year of the new offense has helped him.
“Everyone was kind of trying to pick things up on the fly last year, but we’ve had a year, we’ve seen what other teams are going to do to us, we kind of know how they’re going to play us now,” Bell said. “It definitely makes us all a little bit more comfortable.”