As he had promised to do earlier in the week, Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman informed the media on Friday that LB Lance Briggs has been medically cleared to play in the team’s showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, but there was a catch to it:
The final decision on whether Briggs plays or not will not be made by the coaching staff, but rather by the linebacker himself. His shoulder injury, which was originally reported as a fracture but actually involved an injury to the ligaments in his shoulder as well per reporting by NBC Chicago’s Peggy Kusinski, has sidelined him ever since the Bears’ Week 7 loss to the Washington Redskins, and was perhaps the biggest blow of all to a defense that has seen an absurd number of injuries this season.
If Briggs is able to return on Sunday, then the Bears are going to be getting back arguably their best defensive player at exactly the right time. Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene have done a serviceable job at the linebacker position for the Bears, but the rookies have had a tough time adjusting to the various schemes that they have been facing this season. Whether it’s the struggle to adjust when an offense fakes the run, or the tough time they’ve had in dropping into coverage, the duo has had to learn a lot on the fly, and it hasn’t been without its growing pains.
As for Briggs, the expectation is that he will come into the game on Sunday in good shape after a long layoff. With a shoulder injury, Briggs likely won’t see much drop-off in his speed and movement on Sunday, but the real question will be whether or not the rust that he’ll have will slow him down. It’s a fine art to play weakside linebacker in a system like this, and especially with a defensive end like Shea McClellin taking snaps in front of you.
His struggles against the run will make Briggs’ job that much more difficult on that side of the field, and it will be interesting to see how Briggs copes with some of the defensive lapses that his teammates have made in recent weeks. It isn’t likely that Mel Tucker will dial up many blitzes involving Briggs, so he’ll be in more of a pass coverage role as the box is vacated by either Bostic or (more likely) James Anderson on those plays.