LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said after being named to his sixth-consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday that he still gets a “big kick” from being picked for the NFL’s annual all-star game.
But in speaking about the honor, Briggs made a salient point about his standing as a traditional outside linebacker in a league dominated by hybrid players. Of the six players at his position in the 2011 Pro Bowl, Briggs is the only 4-3 outside linebacker on either team’s roster.
“In this day and age, it’s pretty tough for a traditional outside linebacker to get into the game with the 3-4 [defenses], which to me [there] is still a major question of what an outside linebacker is defined as. To me, linebackers don’t put their hands on the ground and rush the quarterback. I’m thankful for it. It’s a lot of respect from around the league, not only the fans, but the coaches and players.”
On the NFC roster, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware join Briggs as outside linebackers. In the 3-4 systems employed by the Packers and Cowboys, Matthews and Ware are most often asked to line up in a three-point stance and rush the quarterback, similar to the responsibilities of a 4-3 defensive end.
Traditional 4-3 outside linebackers line up approximately five yards off the line of scrimmage, behind the front four.
All of the linebackers -- outside and inside -- on the AFC Pro Bowl roster are from 3-4 defenses, and include Pittsburgh’s James Harrison, Miami’s Cameron Wake, Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, and New England’s Jerod Mayo.
Briggs and Brian Urlacher are the only two linebackers in the entire Pro Bowl from a 4-3 defense, which not only speaks about their value as players, but the proliferation of 3-4 systems in the NFL.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had a couple Pro Bowls together,” Briggs said. “I can’t think of a team that has had more linebackers in the same room with as many Pro Bowls as we have. To have two linebackers from the same team go is pretty amazing.”
Briggs and Urlacher have been selected to a combined 13 Pro Bowls.
“It’s cool,” Urlacher said.