If Lance Briggs’ war of words with management was going to have any damaging impact with his teammates, those teammates weren’t showing it on Sunday.
Before agreeing Wednesday to a one-year $7.206 million contract as the Chicago Bears franchise player, Briggs had been his usual outspoken self. Missing mandatory team workouts at Lake Forest was one thing and not surprising. Saying he wanted to be traded, or might not play the first 10 games, could have had some comrades concerned if not irritated.
But not linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. Or secondary members Chris Harris or Nathan Vasher. Nor place-kicker Robbie Gould.
"Any time you can get a Pro Bowl player, it’s great to get him back," Harris said. "He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s a jokester. He keeps it light and real live.
"It’s good to have him on and off the field."
Vasher said "it’s a big lift for us. He’s more or less a leader by example. He carries his weight like a true professional. He takes care of his business on and off the field and gives it 100 percent overtime he goes out there.
"We can always continue to get better with people like that on our team. It doesn’t matter to me (that Briggs missed the first two days of practice). He’s here now."
Gould said Briggs’ presence "provides us with more energy. He’s happy to be here, and everyone’s excited about it."
Hillenmeyer said it was just the way things are in the world of sports.
"I think that both sides know that business is business," he said. "It just happens that because it’s a fan-driven sport, there are so many people out there who want to know what’s going on. Their business becomes everyone’s business.
"A lot of times tempers flare and people get upset, and everything works out in the end. I think both sides were mature enough about it that they still were able to work something out."
Hillenmeyer says it’s "a tough thing" when a player wants one thing and the team another.
"If there’s a disagreement there, they initially couldn’t come to terms with what they wanted to get done, so things were said."
Teammates had to speak for Briggs because he declined to talk to media at lunch and after practice. Arriving on a black Trek bike to the cafeteria at Olivet Nazarene University, he said, "Love you all. Miss you all." On his way out, he said, "Happy to be here."
After an afternoon practice, Briggs jogged straight to sign autographs for fans. Flocked by media, Briggs was heard to say "It’s business" and "I’ve said enough."
Fans were heard saying, "Glad to have you back, Lance." That was something echoed by head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo.
"It’s good to get one of the final pieces to the defense out on the field," said Smith, who had Briggs work mostly with the second unit. "I thought he came in pretty good shape."
Angelo said he visited with Briggs on Saturday night after Briggs arrived.
"As much of a man of principle he is, he said, ‘Jerry, I just couldn’t see not being here with the team at the start of camp,’" Angelo said. "He told me how much he was looking forward to being part of the team and taking that next step."
Reed Schreck is the NFL Writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.