- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Lance Briggs, you're right.
Missing one day, a Monday workout not considered crucial to real preparation for Sunday's matchup shouldn't be looked at as a major issue headed into the opener against the Buffalo Bills. After seven Pro Bowl seasons and 11 years as one of the main contributors to the Chicago Bears defense, there's not much Briggs can learn about filling gaps, playing coverages, tackling, reading offenses or shedding blocks.
But the lesson for Briggs to learn here is about perception.
Briggs asked Bears coach Marc Trestman for a personal day off without telling the coach he was planning to use that day -- Monday -- to make an appearance in California for the grand opening of his new barbecue restaurant, Double Nickel Smokehouse. When those facts came to light, it appeared -- right or wrong -- as if Briggs placed the personal venture above teammates and the club's preparation for the opener, not to mention it looked as if the linebacker was being deceptive about why he needed a personal day by not giving the coach the details.
When questioned about it all, Briggs came off as defiant.
"The question that's more important than that is as a guy that's over 12 years [in the NFL] that 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 here than there, my history has always spoken for me. You can take that how you want to."
Briggs missed an hour-long Monday workout to open his new restaurant. He later explained that during a typical week of preparation in the NFL, teams don't start to install the game until the Wednesday leading up to the game.
That's all true, and from this vantage point, this whole episode doesn't register as a big deal. Joking of course, Briggs did take the day off on Labor Day.
For Briggs, though, the problem comes down to how this all looks. In recent years, the Bears haven't been timid about ridding the locker room of former Lovie Smith players. Brian Urlacher serves as a prime example, as does Devin Hester. For a team that has endured so much turnover in recent years, particularly on the defense, it would seem important for a player who has been a stalwart of the franchise since 2003 to be in attendance for the first practice leading up to the season opener, and not opening a barbecue restaurant.
Besides that, let's not forget Chicago's defense is coming off a historically bad 2013 campaign or the fact Briggs missed seven games that season due to a shoulder injury.
Surely, the brass doesn't covet that type of example in the locker room.
Also, by not telling Trestman, the coach winds up diving on the proverbial grenade in explaining Briggs' absence while coming off as a man not totally in control of his team. Say what you want about former coach Lovie Smith, but this sort of thing rarely occurred during his watch.
Again, this situation isn't a big deal. But it's about perception.
"I'm not going to comment on that because there have been a lot of different reasons why players have asked for personal time," Trestman said. "I just don't feel I should have to comment on that because now we've set a baseline for each and every situation, and it's not about the player. It's about the best interest of the team. It's all a part of the encompassing decisions that are made and I'll just leave it at that."
So brisket, pulled pork, hot links and ribs -- perhaps some sweet tea -- served up in another state by one of your top defenders, while the rest of the Bears prep at Halas Hall for the opener, serves the best interest of the team?
Let's reiterate: No big deal here. But for the coach and the player, it's not a good look.
Let's also remember that Briggs, 33, enters the final year of a three-year extension signed in 2012 worth $17.5 million, and has mentioned several times he wants to retire a Bear.
Briggs later explained the importance of the 2014 season.
"It's extremely important," Briggs said. "This is the last year of my deal. So every moment of every game counts."
It's not a must for a 12th-year vet of Briggs' pedigree, but perhaps he should take a similar approach to practice.
After all, it's all about perception.