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Bears Thu Dec 12 2013
The day after a Bears game is the time you're most likely to see a player out and about during the season. It's their off day during non-bye weeks, and often guys can be found doing marketing, branding or charity events.
Following the frigid victory over Dallas on Monday night, Lance Briggs turned up at a local Best Buy on Tuesday, conducting interviews and signing autographs at one of the eight regional events for the Ultimate Gamers Showdown. Madden experts from across the area gathered for a shot to win a $1,000 Best Buy gift card, along with a trip to Dallas next week to compete for the championship.
Briggs took his turn on the sticks against some media members in the interview area before going out to sign autographs. A game was set up for the two of us to sneak in a few plays, so he sat down with his Bears, and I the rival Lions.
He's not much of a Madden player at all, but he still buys the game to see if he has a beef with any of his ratings given to his likeness (he doesn't like that his speed is only 78). Madden now isn't what it was when he was playing video games as a kid, but he still loves the football titles that were available on the NES.
"The original [Tecmo Bowl] was my favorite," Briggs said. "I played with the Bears (and Walter Payton) or the 49ers, mostly." Payton was arguably the best player in the game, and being a native of California can easily explain the 49ers love.
After forcing a quick three-and-out (I was able to sack him on the first play), I had one offensive play before he had to move on to his next interview. I did what any Madden player would do in that situation, and went for the score: "All Streaks." Matt Stafford dropped back, and I directed him to throw a deep ball down the seam to Calvin Johnson inside the five-yard line. The ball was three yards wide of target, and Chris Conte jumped up to snare the interception on my one chance at glory.
"That a boy, Chris!" Briggs jumped up and yelled. Despite just being a video game, he was clearly proud of a fellow defender who's had a rough time on the actual gridiron this season.
When speaking about his teammates and his role in recent weeks as a coach on the sidelines, he was very thoughtful of everyone he plays next to. Helping rookies like Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene try to improve every week has been his focus outside of rehabbing, but he feels he could do it better playing next to them.
"I can serve best for them by leading by example," Briggs said. "I can show them not only do we have a gap, but there's a way to play your gap to make a tackle and make a play. It's more than just being in position -- now it's time to take it to the next level. For those guys, being on the field, I can teach better than being on the sidelines."
His presence has been sorely missed. In the six games since Briggs injured his shoulder, the Bears have given up a staggering 203 yards per game on the ground, which averages out to 6.3 yards per attempt. They weren't exactly the 2012 defense when he was out on the field, but it's been a disaster since the All-Pro exited late in the game against Washington.
Marc Trestman said yesterday that he is not optimistic that Briggs will be able to suit up this weekend against Cleveland. The Bears could certainly use him, but the Browns have been abysmal offensively outside of star wide received Josh Gordon, and could probably sneak out a victory without 55 on the field Sunday.
With the team needing to out-win the Lions by a game the rest of the way, the Bears need him back at 100 percent sooner rather than later. A pair of big time running backs are on the schedule against Philadelphia and Green Bay the final two weeks, and the team stands little chance at slowing down opponents in either game if Briggs hasn't returned to his weakside linebacker spot.
But if he can't play on Sunday, there's no question he'll be there to cheer on and guide his teammates that are -- just as he did with their virtual counterparts.