"It's hard," Briggs said. "It's hard because we spent a lot of time together.
"I was a kid coming out of college when I met Brian, and a lot of the older guys were ... we were definitely with the guys that were young in the '90s and older in the millennium, and a lot of those guys were jerks. Those guys were mean. I'm not throwing names out, but the bigger they are, the meaner.
"Brian was always a warming person. We related on a lot of things throughout our years. He was always somebody I can go to. And I always liked thinking I was somebody he could come to. We understood each other very well. We understood each other extremely well.
"I'm really thankful for the moments I know he went to bat for me without saying he went to bat for me. I know there were situations it probably could have gone either way. There was a lot of stuff that happened within the organization and the coaching staff ... I know that Brian had a lot to do with a lot of those moments."
Briggs said Urlacher was "easily" the most beloved player in the locker room.
"Most of the guys, football like most sports, you have a lot of star spoiled athletes and we all have big egos, and a guy like Brian who is one of the top earners in the NFL he's supposed to come with a huge ego," Briggs said. "But he doesn't. He's really a small-town boy from New Mexico that can play football damn well.
"He epitomizes the value that I have in not only a teammate but a man."
But with a new coaching staff, plenty of new faces on the roster and a quarterback facing a contract year, there are plenty of issues to address.
Our Bears writers weigh in on several during an offseason edition of Four Downs.
Fact or Fiction: Kyle Long will prove to be more of a project than impact player his first season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Long has the athleticism to be an outstanding NFL player. That much we know. But he only played in 11 games and started four at Oregon, so how can I project him to be an impact player as a rookie? There isn't enough body of work to back up that claim. And are offensive guards ever considered impact players? In a perfect world, Long stays healthy and starts all 16 games at right guard. I believe that is attainable. If that meets you criteria of "impact player," then so be it. But I think it would be wise to preach a little patience with Long. Remember, he had to miss the entire offseason program due to NFL rules. To expect Long to hit the ground running when training camp opens up at the end of July is unfair. It could some time for him to develop. But if the Bears were correct in their evaluations, it will be worth the wait.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. While there's a good chance of Long falling behind the more experienced James Brown on the depth chart in 2013, count on the Bears giving Long every opportunity to shine from Day 1. Given Long's combination of strength, tenacity and rare athleticism, he should be able to overcome some of the technical kinks he'll show as a rookie. As the season progresses and Long takes more to the coaching, he'll sharpen up his technique. Long's offseason work with Tony Wise should help as will offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who has gained a reputation for developing offensive linemen. No doubt Long is somewhat raw. But he's talented enough athletically to be able to overcome that.
The Bears wrapped up the three-month long offseason program without their projected two starters at wide receiver ever sharing the field together for an extended period of time. Offseason hip surgery limited four-time Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Marshall to individual work at the end of OTAs last week and one day of minicamp, while a tight hamstring kept Alshon Jeffery off the field Tuesday and Wednesday. Jeffery did return on Thursday but only participated in limited individual drills.
"I think we turned it into a positive," Trestman said. "We got a great look at some of the young guys. They were ready to step in. We had very few, if any, mental errors there. They were running full speed and we were catching the football when we had the opportunity. So it was good for them to get the reps and get the reps against our top players on defense. Those are all good things.
Gannon worked with Trestman during stops in Minnesota and in Oakland in 2002, when the quarterback was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player.
Gannon said the key for Cutler and Trestman is to gain a high level of trust in one another.
In an effort to speed up Cutler's release time, Bears coach Marc Trestman kept a verbal running clock on the practice field every time Cutler or the other two quarterbacks on the roster dropped back during 7-on-7 or 11-on-11.
Trestman wanted to drill into Cutler's head the importance of making quick decisions, as opposed to sitting in the pocket patting the football while waiting for a play to develop down the field. Cutler has always been considered a quarterback who prefers reaction over anticipation.
"I just want them to have a sense of urgency up there making the calls, assessing the defense, those types of things," Trestman said Thursday. "We'll have a clock in training camp so it will be easier on the voice. But I want them to get to the line of scrimmage. It's like any other quarterback in the league, time is of the essence. We've got a lot of work to do before the snap. It's the same everywhere. We just want to make sure we have that sense of urgency with every single play."
Bears coach Marc Trestman said all the injuries are minor and each of the players will be ready in July for training camp.
"We came out of (minicamp) pretty much injury-free," Trestman said. "(There were) a couple of nicks; nothing where guys won't be available as we start training camp."
The team held out Jeffery as a precautionary measure for the second consecutive practice after the second-year receiver suffered a minor hamstring injury last week during organized team activities. Marshall and Wilson also missed their second straight practice.
Marshall participated in the first day of minicamp, but the Bears want to proceed with caution as the receiver recovers from offseason arthroscopic hip surgery.
"There was no plan," Trestman said of the team's approach to Marshall's recovery during the minicamp. "We just kind of took it as it has come during the days. We've left it up to Brandon to assess his body and where he is. We thought it was best collectively to keep him out of practice as much as we could, and we did. He'll be back ready to go next month."
With the starting receivers and Wilson out of action, the Bears gave the first-team repetitions to Earl Bennett and Joe Anderson, along with Eric Weems when the team executed three-receiver sets.
Jeffery caught 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games last season, but missed a total of six weeks because of a fractured hand and arthroscopic knee surgery. Marshall, meanwhile, is coming off a team record-breaking campaign in which he hauled in 118 balls for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Paea, meanwhile, was excused because he "had a family issue, nothing serious," Trestman said. Zbikowski's excused absence for personal reasons was "nothing out of the ordinary," according to the coach, who added, "He had a very good reason to leave, and I let him go."
A first-round pick by the Saints' (No. 7 overall) in 2008, Ellis enjoyed moderate success during his first three seasons, but said the team's scheme over the last two years "didn't quite suit my talents." Ellis posted 12 sacks in his first three seasons, but over the past two, he's contributed only a half-sack overall.
"I believe the first three years went pretty well," Ellis said. "We had some coaching changes and some scheme changes as far as defense. It was kind of a little rotation of defensive coordinators that came in for a little bit. I believe the last two years the schemes that were played didn't quite suit my talents. I think that showed in production."
"I was just talking to some of the guys about the way the Blackhawks have handled their success throughout the season. It's the constant, daily mindset of just trying to get better. That's what you're hearing from their players," Trestman said. "They're a hard-working team. I've watched them play in person and on TV.
"You know, you can learn from the way they've built their team and how they've responded, not only to their success, but also to the periodic adversity they had throughout the year. So as professionals, coaches and athletes, we can learn from them and their success. I think we do watching them play."
"I feel old, I really do," Cutler said Tuesday in confirming that he and actress Kristin Cavallari had recently married. "It feels good."
He didn't offer any details of the wedding, saying only: "It went off without a hitch, so that's all you can ask for."
Cavallari recently tweeted a photo of the wedding rings. The former star of MTV reality shows "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills" and the Bears QB have a son named Camden Jack Cutler.
They announced their engagement in 2011, but broke up briefly last summer. They reconciled a few months later.
The Bears completed the first session of a three-day mandatory minicamp Tuesday, with new coach Marc Trestman cutting practice short approximately 20 minutes in part because of the heat, and his desire to get maximum effort from the players during the abbreviated timeframe. Cutler believes the offense is "on pace" for the regular-season opener, but acknowledged "it takes time" to develop.
"It's every day of just trying to get better, and trying to learn the offense so that it's less thinking and more just reacting out there," Cutler said. "The guys are doing a great job out there of taking it home with them, and really studying it because with the amount of time we're allowed out here, you can't really get in as much as you want to get in. We're gonna see where we're at when we leave training camp, but right now I think we're on pace."
Set to execute his fourth offensive scheme since joining the Bears in 2009, Cutler hinted that he might have more weapons at his disposal now than ever on offense. The Bears upgraded the offensive line by adding free agent left tackle Jermon Bushrod and drafting guard Kyle Long. The club also added a weapon in the passing game with tight end Martellus Bennett to play alongside Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
"I do know that this is the most competitive locker room I've ever been in talent-wise, speed-wise," Cutler said. "We've got some guys in there that can really play football, and we've got a lot of them, which is a good thing. So it's gonna be tough when it comes down to cuts to see exactly how it shakes out."
Cutler mentioned "there are similarities and there's differences," between Trestman's offense and other systems he's run in the past, but he pointed out the understanding of quarterbacks and protection schemes of the new coach and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer as positives.
"Kromer and everyone else involved, and Marc, have a great understanding of how to get guys open, how to protect the football, how to open up gaps in the run game," Cutler said. "(Trestman has) got a lot of ex-quarterbacks that have talked him up, and preached very good about him; and rightfully so. He does a great job. I really enjoy working with him. He understands quarterbacks. He understands how to protect quarterbacks. He's able to get into your mind and see what you're seeing, and think what you're thinking, and give you the best possible solutions.
"He's not gonna send you out there with plays that aren't gonna work or plays that are gonna work against some defenses, but not others. He's gonna give you a lot of answers, but make sure it's simple enough so that everyone else can understand."
How quickly Cutler and his teammates master the system will play a major role in determining the team's overall success in 2013. But the quarterback shied from bold proclamations because at this point, the team is "just trying to learn the basics of the offense." After this week's minicamp, which ends on Thursday, the Bears won't spend significant time as a team sharpening up on the intricacies of the system on the field. That won't take place again until training camp at Bourbonnais.
"Really, without even getting into it, it's a three-year process to learn an offense," Cutler said. "It just is what it is. It's hard to go out there Year 1 and blow the doors off. But we're gonna do the best we can with the time allowed, and we'll see where we're at."
Trestman said Cutler is off to a promising start, though.
"The meetings have gone very smoothly. There's intelligent interchange between himself, (quarterbacks coach) Matt (Cavanaugh), myself, the other quarterbacks. I love our meeting room," Trestman said. "We're getting a lot done quickly. Jay's been in so many different offenses and I'm totally impressed at how he's handled new language, new ways to look at things. This is a little bit different for him but I think he's handling it extremely well."
Does Trestman see Cutler producing the type of success he's experienced with quarterbacks he's worked with in the past such as Rich Gannon, Steve Young, and Anthony Cavillo most recently in the Canadian League?
"Most of the quarterbacks, I'm just lucky to have worked with them. I think I'm really lucky to be working with Jay," Trestman said. "He's putting out every day. His work ethic is unparalleled, as good as any I've ever been around. His detail in the offense is as good as anybody I've been around. He's doing all the right things, he's working at his craft, and it's not easy when you're starting over one more time. I applaud him. I think the team feels that when he gets into the huddle he's in control, as our other quarterbacks have done as well."
During the session on Tuesday, Trestman said the Bears installed "a midseason game plan," which gave the team "a lot of diversity to what we were doing," he said.
In workouts open to the media, the defense seems to have enjoyed the upper hand during practices, which isn't uncommon at this time of the offseason. Trestman, however, mentioned that "what you haven't seen is the ebb and flow of competition that's gone on over the last month because you haven't been here every day."
"There's been days where the defense has won, and there's been days where the offense has won," Trestman said. "At the end of the day, there's very good cooperative practicing. We think we're headed in the right direction with what we're doing."
"[Jeffery] ran a go-route the other day and made a great play out there and just tweaked it a little bit," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're just going to be as cautious as we can. We're trying to get out of here with every player being healthy, and keeping our team as safe as we can amidst the competition that you see going on out there."
Jeffery caught 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games last season, missing a total of six weeks due to a knee injury and a fractured hand.
While Jeffery rested his hamstring, fellow wide receiver Brandon Marshall participated almost fully during Tuesday's session. Marshall took part in team drills Tuesday in front of the media for the first time this offseason. The Pro Bowler was limited to individual work last week at the Bears' final organized team activity as he continues to work his way back from offseason hip surgery.