NAM Y. HUH / Associated Press

Linebacker Lance Briggs says he is still an elite player and that his Chicago Bears have the talent to make a run at the Super Bowl title this season.

Hometown Report: Briggs accepts risks of NFL life

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 - 10:54 am

Lance Briggs understands his line of work is different.

Playing professional football, the Chicago Bears' nine-year linebacker said Sunday night, comes with a price.

"In this game, your body will (pay) a toll because guys as big as us are not supposed to move like this," said Briggs, The Bee's 1998 Player of the Year from Elk Grove High School. "It's hard not to get your bell rung in this sport; that's hard to avoid when guys are flying around at 100 mph. That's the fun part of it and the risks. It's like a boxer. He knows the dangers. Football is a choice. You know what you're getting into."

Even if he never suffers a career-ending injury, Briggs says the game will have an enduring impact on him – both good and bad.

"I know I'm going to have lasting effects from this game," said Briggs, who worked out with the Bears on Monday. "I'll have arthritis in my hands. I'll have tendinitis in my knees. Doctors tell me now nothing in my knees at this stage of my career is normal, and that after all these years, they should look like this.

"I know players want to be taken care of medically by the NFL after they retire, and we should. We became part of the league and its great name, so you hope the league takes care of you later. I'm OK with what's happened to me, physically in football, because this game gave me a lot."

Football gave Briggs academic focus and self esteem in high school. It got him into Arizona on scholarship. It got him drafted in 2003 by the Bears. The sport has rewarded Briggs financially beyond his dreams and decorated him with seven consecutive Pro Bowls and three All-Pro honors.

All of which leads us to wonder this: Is Briggs now the area's greatest NFL player?

Tedy Bruschi of Roseville played in one Pro Bowl, but he won three Super Bowls as a Patriots linebacker.

Dan Bunz of Oakmont was a two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker with the 49ers.

Four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Charles Mann of Valley won three Super Bowls with the Redskins and 49ers.

Briggs, 31, said he is still an elite player. He competed in one Super Bowl and said the Bears have the roster to make a title run this season.

"Those are great names – Bruschi and the others," Briggs said. "I hope when it's all said and done, and I walk away from this game, I will have cemented some sort of legacy and be remembered for something great, something positive."

Briggs wants to be remembered for playing hard to the end of his career. He said he won't tone down his game, even with increased awareness of concussions and the league doing all it can to limit injuries. Briggs said he fears the NFL will be reduced to the equivalent of a flag-football league.

Balancing safety with effort and playing the game correctly will be themes Briggs will discuss Saturday at American River College to youth and teenage players at his fourth annual Briggs4Kidz Foundation football camp. Go to www.briggs55football for information.

"We'll teach fundamentals and the drills to help young men become better players," Briggs said. "But in order to be the best you can be, you have to play as hard as you can, all out. You can't play this game halfway, otherwise you'll get hurt for sure. You can still get a lot out of this great game."

Briggs said the camp will include a doctor to address parents' concerns about safety. Briggs also will emphasize academics to campers, using his classroom struggles as an example.

Briggs entered his sophomore year at Elk Grove as an academic mess. He emerged as a college scholarship qualifier.

"I was never a kid who applied himself academically early, and I could have," Briggs said. "Elk Grove really embraced me. My road to being a good student was a long, hard one. I had to re-do all the Ds and Fs I had from my freshman year. I put in the time, got to school at 6 in the morning and left at 6 at night to make up classes.

"Kids have to understand that colleges won't look at you if you don't have good transcripts. You have to be a student first before you can play and enjoy this game."

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