Lance Briggs checks his internal fuel gauge regularly. Plenty left in the tank, says the linebacker for hire.
The 1998 Sacramento Bee Player of the Year from Elk Grove High School is borderline ancient in football years at 34, but the free agent is fit, motivated and young in spirit. Briggs, whose résumé includes 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears and seven Pro Bowl appearances, craves at least one more NFL season.
“Football is my passion,” Briggs said Monday, adding, “I’m working out in Kentucky, keeping all options open.”
Briggs warrants curiosity because of his pedigree, never mind the mileage. He was a defensive stalwart for the modern-day Monsters of the Midway but was slowed by injuries his last two seasons. Last season, Briggs played only eight games and recorded a career-low 34 tackles with no sacks. He started nine games in 2013 after starting at least 14 games each of the previous nine seasons.
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One of the game’s more durable players finally showed some worn tread on those tires.
Football is my passion. I’m working out in Kentucky, keeping all options open.
The 49ers expressed interest in Briggs in the spring, and he has had feelers from other camps. The NFL is a triage unit as players go down with injuries. Briggs anticipates he will be on the short list of must-have veterans should a team lose a linebacker. One man’s misfortune often leads to another’s opportunity.
Briggs has largely been defined by football, but he’s more than just a sweaty athlete. He has dabbled in business, created the website “Lance’s Comic World” that explores comic book storytelling in Chicago, and opened his Double Nickel Smokehouse restaurant in Elk Grove last fall.
Briggs also sparkled in an NFL Network appearance last week. He was natural, insightful and engaging.
In light of the New York Jets saga when a backup linebacker punched starting quarterback Geno Smith, Briggs admitted to NFL Network host Andrew Siciliano he considered clocking his own quarterbacks during some roller-coaster seasons with the Bears.
Here’s their dialogue:
“We’ve had a lot of quarterbacks (I’ve wanted to punch),” Briggs said. “ Why didn’t I do it? Because, out of respect.”
Siciliano peeled off a list of one-time Bears passers.
“Wanted to punch him a couple times,” Briggs said, punching his hand for emphasis.
“Wanted to punch him four times,” said Briggs, smacking his hand again.
We’ve had a lot of quarterbacks (I’ve wanted to punch). Why didn’t I do it? Because, out of respect.
Lance Briggs, speaking on the NFL Network
He added, “I wanted to punch Rex Grossman in Miami (after Grossman threw two interceptions in a Super Bowl loss to the Colts in 2007).
Briggs said he enjoyed his NFL Network appearance and has wondered about broadcasting. For now, he eyes only an NFL return.
“I have many things I want to do post-football,” Briggs said. “I’m staying ready for the right call (for a football return).”
A quarterback whom Briggs never considered hitting was Ryan Dinwiddie, his best friend on the 14-0 Elk Grove High team of 1998. They remain close.
Dinwiddie is on the Montreal Alouettes’ coaching staff in the Canadian Football League. He joined the team in 2013, reuniting with coach Dan Hawkins – a UC Davis graduate and former Christian Brothers coach – who recruited Dinwiddie at Boise State.
Montreal has been engulfed in headlines for all the wrong reasons this season. The Alouettes (2-5) are in last placein the East Division. Also, Michael Sam, pro football’s first openly gay player, left the Alouettes last week. His CFL career consisted of 12 snaps against Ottawa.
Rookie strong safety Jordan Richards (Folsom) has impressed in camp for the New England Patriots.
The second-round pick out of Stanford has been lauded for his intelligence and versatility. In the first quarter of his first NFL game, against the Packers, Richards played strong safety, free safety, slot cornerback, sideline cornerback and outside linebacker. He also can play on special teams.
At Folsom for the 2010 CIF State Division II champions, Richards played several defensive positions as well as running back, wide receiver and special teams. His father, Terrence, a mentor and coach to Richards, has especially enjoyed watching camp practices this summer. Terrence grew up on the East Coast and played football at Tufts in Medford, Mass., in the 1970s.