The standoff between Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs and the Chicago Bears is officially moving to the next stage.
“I am now prepared to sit out the year if the Bears don’t trade me or release me,” Briggs told FOXSports.com via cell phone on Monday. “I’ve played my last snap for them. I’ll never play another down for Chicago again.”
Briggs was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent earlier this month but the Bears slapped him with the Franchise tag, which pretty much keeps him as their property for next season at a one-year salary of $7.2 million. Briggs insists he will not play for a team that will use him for a year and see if he can hold up again rather than reward his two Pro Bowls with a long-term deal.
“People think I can’t afford to sit out the year," he said. "I can take out loans to get me through that year just fine because eventually I’ll have a deal somewhere. There are things I can do to make sure I’m fine financially if I sit out.
“I can also decide what other course of action I can take as the season gets closer. The Bears have shown I’m not in their long-term plans, so if that’s the case, I’m don’t want to be here.”
Last week, GM Jerry Angelo faced the matter with his unhappy linebacker when he said on a conference call, “We have his rights, so he’s on our football team. We feel that we’re treating him very good. That’s a lot of money he’s making on a one year-deal. The strain really comes to us in terms of our cap and what we have to do for a one-year deal.
“Most of the times when you franchise a player they don’t get traded. We will always listen to anything that we feel will be in our best interest. But when we did this, it was with the intent for him to be a Bear this year.”
During the phone call, another interesting reason for leaving arose. Briggs, who is extremely close with the Bears’ star Brian Urlacher, wants to run his own show somewhere and knows it can’t happen with No. 54 manning the middle.
“I’ve talked to Brian about it,” said Briggs. “I’m a competitor, and I want the same thing he has. I’ve learned a lot from Brian as a player and a leader, and I eventually want to be ‘the man’ somewhere. I want to be like him and have everything put on me, too. Obviously, I’ll never be able to do that there.
“Still, had the Bears made me a long-term offer that I found acceptable, I probably would have sacrificed this desire and stayed. I don’t want to be somewhere I’m not wanted long-term.”
One of the rotten things about the franchise tag is that is causes bad blood between players and the team. Briggs has gone from fan-favorite to villain in the course of a month as the always-passionate Chicago fans have taken offense to a guy saying he wants out.
“I see what the fans are saying, and it’s tough,” he said. “They’re angry, and I want to be able to explain it myself because I love Chicago. There is a whole city of people angry at me, all because I want to know where I’ll be able to retire and have job security.”
Usually in these situations, things get uglier before being resolved. How it moves to the next stage now is anyone’s guess.