End of an era for Bears without Briggs

By Mubarak Salami

The season is over, officially.

But then again, it’s really been over for a while now.

After a 34-17 loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, the Chicago Bears have now fallen four games behind the division-leading Green Bay Packers with only three weeks left in the season, eliminating any hope of a division title or a potential playoff berth.

But a playoff berth wasn’t the only thing that slipped out of the Bears’ grasp on Thanksgiving.

Thursday’s loss signified the end of an era defined by dominating defense and special teams; an era in which the Bears earned the nickname “Monsters of the Midway” due to their tenacious and hard-noised defensive units.

For many years, linebacker Lance Briggs anchored those defenses. Those days are over.

Briggs, the seven-time Pro-Bowler and three-time All-Pro, missed Thursday’s game with a groin injury and was placed on the injured reserve list Friday morning.

Briggs is officially done for the season and most likely done with the Bears.

With Briggs’s contract expiring, the Bears are looking to get younger at the linebacker position and on the defensive side of the ball as a whole.

Briggs will surely be missed. For the past decade, defenders like Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman have been the face of the Bears’ organization.

That era is over.

Tillman, a mainstay and a cornerstone of the team for years, was lost way back in Week 2, when he suffered a season-ending, and potentially career-ending, triceps injury. It is the second time in as many years his season has been drastically cut short due to injury. Like Briggs, Tillman’s contract will expire at the end of the season, and like Briggs, there is a strong possibility Tillman’s days donning the navy and orange are over.

As a long-time Bears fan, that’s a hard idea to swallow. Harder than the idea of the Bears season being over and completely wasted despite having a roster flooded with talent.

It’s tough to get over because the Bears players I have grown to know and love for so long are on their way out. However, what hurts worse is the way in which they are going to go out.

They will leave on the sidelines, on a bad, underachieving team.

Players like Briggs and Tillman deserve better than that. They deserve to go out on a high note.

While both of them have seen their overall skill decline because of age, what they lacked in ability they made up for in leadership, locker room presence and other things that do no show up on the stat sheet.

Briggs and Tillman have also had a profound effect on the young players on the team, mentoring them and teaching them to be professionals. Their impact will be felt long after they are gone. They are two individuals who can never truly be replaced. Two guys who will undoubtedly go down as two of the best in franchise history.

So when the Bears take the field Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys with essentially nothing to play for, I will still be watching closely.

I’ll be watching even though Briggs and Tillman will be on the sidelines. I’ll be watching because I know their days are numbered and it’ll be one of the last times I see them within the confines of Soldier Field.

Besides, with the way the Bears have been playing this season, I need some sort of reason to watch the game.

Mubarak is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @justmubar.