Decision for Sunday in Briggs' hands

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
2:59
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Much like the Chicago Bears' path to the NFC North title, Lance Briggs controls his own destiny.

The decision to play Briggs on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles now rests solely in the hands of the seven-time Pro Bowler, after head coach Marc Trestman announced on Friday that Briggs has received the necessary medical clearance from team doctors to return to action for the first time since he fractured his shoulder on Oct. 10.

Trestman has been quoted on the record multiple times in the past couple of days saying he is “optimistic” that Briggs will be active against the Eagles, especially after the veteran linebacker had full participation in Friday’s practice inside the Walter Payton Center.

[+] EnlargeLance Briggs
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhLinebacker Lance Briggs, who last played Oct. 20 at Washington, has medical clearance to test his injured shoulder Sunday night against Philadelphia.
But Trestman stopped short of guaranteeing that Briggs will take the field against Chip Kelly's high-powered offense.

Why?

Though the odds seem favorable that Briggs will test out the shoulder Sunday night, likely on a limited snap count, it’s hardly a slam dunk.

The average NFL fracture takes six weeks to heal. Briggs himself originally declared that he would miss only three-to-four around the time the injury occurred. But three-to-four weeks turned into eight weeks and seven missed games as Briggs experienced unexpected complications with the shoulder.

“Initially (I thought I’d be back sooner),” Briggs said on Thursday. “And then you get to the point where you get tested and your strength and everything isn’t where it’s supposed to be, or my bone is not healing the way it’s supposed to. There was some talk of going on IR, but that didn’t happen, and I’m here now. Now, I just want to play football.”

Whenever a player contemplates going on injured reserve, that means the injury, in his mind, is serious enough to where it affects his ability to perform up to par on the football field. The fact Briggs strongly considered shutting it down for the season should not be overlooked.

Then there is the fear of re-injuring the shoulder.

Let’s not be na´ve. Briggs is a business man. His contractual spats with the Bears have been highly publicized over the years. We all see the writing on the wall: the Bears are about to overhaul the defense in the offseason. Briggs, 33, is under contract with the Bears in 2014 for a total salary of $5.5 million, but the last thing any older veteran player wants is to enter an offseason hurt or in need of surgery.

The Bears aren’t exactly sentimental when it pertains to contract negotiations or shaping the future roster -- see Brian Urlacher.

So Briggs has plenty of motivation to ensure that his shoulder is completely healed when the offseason rolls around.

However, it’s obviously in the best interest of the Bears if Briggs plays on Sunday.

In the end, Briggs probably opts to knock off the rust and play a certain amount of snaps in Week 16.

But that decision could have far-reaching consequences.

Don’t think for a second Briggs is blind to that.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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