LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — When Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs asked coach Marc Trestman for a personal day this week, he left out a detail — it was to attend the grand opening of his barbecue restaurant.
He didn’t mention it afterward, either.
Briggs raised a few more eyebrows with that revelation while being grilled by reporters Wednesday.
With the season opening this week he found himself at the center of attention for missing practice to be at the opening of his barbecue restaurant near his hometown of Sacramento, California.
His comments Wednesday added some more heat.
He said “no” after someone asked if he told Trestman the day off was for the opening of the restaurant he part-owns.
He also said he didn’t tell his coach later and they haven’t discussed it since.
Trestman would not say if he would have granted Briggs the day off had he known the reason.
“There’s been a lot of different reasons of why players have asked for personal time,” Trestman said. “I just don’t feel I should have to comment on that because now you’ve set a baseline for each and every situation. It’s not just all about the player; it’s about the best interest of the team.”
Asked if too much is being made of this, Briggs said, “That’s my opinion. Everybody is entitled to their own.”
Had the opening occurred on an off day, this probably would be a non-issue. But Briggs said his partner chose Monday because it was Labor Day, when many people are not working. And the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker was there posing for pictures with fans and signing autographs on a day when his team was practicing, albeit on a limited basis.
Even so, that raised questions about his commitment to the Bears.
“I poured my heart out on the field every game and every play,” Briggs said. “I think if you’re questioning whether I care more to be there than to be here, my history has always spoken for me. You can take that how you want to.”
Briggs’ accomplishments are hard to argue, and they’re counting on him after he missed a big chunk of last season with a broken left shoulder.
The Bears are counting on an improved defense to get them back to the playoffs for just the second time since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run. They rebuilt a unit that ranked among the worst in franchise history last season, adding five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen along with defensive end Lamarr Houston.
They’re healthier after being hit hard by injuries last season, with defensive tackle D.J. Williams and cornerback Charles Tillman healed after missing big portions of last season along with Briggs.
But the optimism that surrounded the Bears at the start of training camp is somewhat tempered.
The defense underwhelmed in the preseason and is still trying to come together.
“The cohesiveness … we can all gel this week and be sharp and play shutdown defense,” Briggs said. “But this is the NFL and they get paid too. In this game there are going to be some mistakes, but you have to make up for those mistakes with getting to the ball, getting a lot of guys around the ball and creating turnovers and stuff like that.”
Briggs’ restaurant-related absence with the opener approaching only added to the angst.
He pointed out that Monday was a light practice and that the Bears don’t start installing their game plan until Wednesday. He also mentioned that the Bears have often gotten Mondays off following victories.
“I asked (Trestman) for a personal day, he said OK,” Briggs said. “I guess my announcing the opening of my restaurant made bigger news than we kind of expected. It is what it is. Right now we’re on Wednesday preparing for the Buffalo Bills.”