- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs spoke Tuesday for the first time in a public setting all offseason, and admitted the defense is "very different" without former teammate Brian Urlacher in the fold.
"I didn't call plays before, and now I'm calling the plays," Briggs said. "I just have a lot of respect (for the job Urlacher did). I've been spoiled for the last 10 years."
A free agent, Urlacher and the Bears couldn't come to an agreement on a contract, causing the club to basically cut ties with a franchise hallmark. Urlacher played alongside Briggs since the latter's rookie season (2003), but hasn't yet found a new team.
Briggs abruptly ended the interview session when asked if was surprised that Urlacher remains unsigned.
Before that, however, Briggs expressed optimism about the team's prospects and gratitude for new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker keeping the team's core concepts in place on defense, along with the terminology.
"We'll be extremely successful if we play the way we're capable of," Briggs said. "It's a blessing that (Tucker) chose to (keep the defense virtually the same as it was under former coach Lovie Smith) instead of having us change our language and how we do things. Adopting our style and our mantra is going to help. We were a top-five defense last year, and in order to get back there, I don't think you change and try something different. You keep doing what you're doing."
The Bears added two new starters to play alongside Briggs at linebacker in James Anderson and Urlacher's replacement D.J. Williams, and drafted two more players in second-rounder Jonathan Bostic and fourth-round pick Khaseem Greene.
With Urlacher out of the picture, Briggs doesn't see himself becoming more of a leader as he plans to "continue to be me. I'm just more vocal now." But as the only veteran starter remaining at linebacker from the Smith regime, Briggs is eager to see how his new teammates perform.
"These guys are wide-eyed, flying around, very smart guys," Briggs said. "You'll get to know more about them once we put pads on. But they're soaking it in really fast, picking it up. So I'm excited to see how they do."