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Briggs testing his voice with new Bears and no Urlacher

The Chicago Bears Lance Briggs (55) during practice Halas Hall Lake Forest Ill. Wednesday April 17 2013. | Andrew A.

The Chicago Bears Lance Briggs (55) during practice at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 23, 2013 6:41AM



As one of the Bears’ best, most durable and accomplished players, linebacker Lance Briggs always has been one of the team’s leaders.

But now, with Brian Urlacher no longer his running mate, Briggs has to be the leader for the Bears, whose goal on defense is maintaining the status quo, unlike on the offense, where major changes are afoot.

For Briggs, that means not just handling the defensive calls but getting them right. That responsibility was Urlacher’s in the middle for years. Briggs, the weak-side linebacker, simply called it ‘‘very different.’’ Briggs first started making the calls during voluntary minicamp in April.

‘‘I didn’t call the plays before, and now I’m calling the plays,” Briggs said Tuesday after the Bears finished their fifth day of organized team activities at Halas Hall. ‘‘I just have a lot of respect; I’ve been spoiled for the last 10 years [with Urlacher].

‘‘We have a lot of great players, so for me it’s just getting guys aligned and in best position to compete.”

Like Briggs, new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has embraced what he has been handed. Tucker has added his own wrinkles but has stayed true to his word and kept the terminology the same.

It meant a lot to Briggs.

‘‘It’s a blessing that [Tucker] chose to do that instead of having us change our language and how we do things,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘Adopting our style and our mantra is going to help. We were a top-five defense last year, and in order to get back there, I don’t think you change and try something different. You keep doing what you’re doing.”

It’s just that Briggs will be doing it with different linebackers. Veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson were signed to replace Urlacher and Nick Roach, and Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene were drafted and should get ample snaps.

Briggs said Williams, the projected starter in the middle, is ‘‘fitting in fine.’’ Briggs also has established open communication with Bostic and Greene for anything.

‘‘All the linebackers, we’ve had a pretty good group and we continue to do that,’’ he said. ‘‘These young guys are wide-eyed, flying around, very smart guys. You’ll get to know more about them once we put pads on, but they’re soaking it in really fast, picking it up, so I’m excited to see how they do.’’

Asked if he was surprised Urlacher hasn’t been signed by a team, Briggs abruptly ended his first media scrum since Urlacher’s departure, saying, ‘‘Yeah, have a good one.’’ It was another sign the Bears are still in transition after Lovie Smith’s firing. With every day that passes, free-agent defensive tackle Israel Idonije’s time in Chicago also looks to be over.

‘‘I miss everybody, you guys,’’ Briggs said.

More is now expected from Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowler. What does it mean to be more of a leader?

‘‘It just means continue to be me,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just vocal now.’’

NOTES: Running back Matt Forte and cornerback Tim Jennings are in Germany as part of a USO tour.

† Guard Kyle Long’s rookie deal is worth $8,300,952 over four years, with a $4,417,056 signing
bonus.

† Defensive end Corey Wootton took snaps at defensive tackle.



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