Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs
As old man winter drapes the Bears practice field in Lake Forest, no one dares whisper the words "old man" to linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.
"I think we should change age to vintage," said Briggs who turns 31 on November 12th. "When does a vintage peak? We are nine years in right now, we're a pretty expensive bottle right now I'll tell you that much!"
Unlike a fine French Bordeaux, these two Bears weren't aged in oak, but rather fermented on the gridiron where Briggs leads the Bears with 76 tackles in this his 8th season. Brian Urlacher's three interceptions this year are tied for most among NFL linebackers.
At 34 years old, he is one of just four players in NFL history to notch 40-plus sacks and 20-plus interceptions. Urlacher modestly sees room for improvement.
"We're playing decent, we make mistakes still, we can run a little bit."
Bears defensive end Israel Idonije sees Urlacher differently -- as the ultimate competitor.
"He loves the game and is passionate about the game. I love watching his energy and approach to playing, that's why he's so successful," Idonije said.
Despite both players being in their 30s -- when the legs start to go -- both Briggs and Urlacher's athleticism shone in the Bears Monday Night win against the Eagles.
Bears Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sees both taking better, smarter angles on their tackles. Head Coach Lovie Smith sees speed.
"Lance isn't known as a 4-40 guy, but I swore he looked like it chasing down Mike Vick," Smith said.
Idonije marvels at the play behind the line, "They're incredible athletes, when you watch how Lance was just relentless sideline to sideline, age isn't a factor".
It's no coincident, their step up in linebacker play has a direct reflection on the Bears rushing defense. Ranked 28th against the run after their Week 5 loss to the Lions, the Bears are now tied for 11th in stopping the run.
"As far as I'm concerned as long as we're playing at a high level they can call us old all they want," Briggs said.
Vintage, Lance, vintage.