Bears not shopping Lance Briggs
Angelo flatly said "no," when asked if the club expects to initiate trade discussions with other teams concerning Briggs, and it appears the team also won't oblige the linebacker's request to even seek a trade.
After an unsuccessful attempt weeks ago to receive a raise, Briggs formally requested permission to seek a trade.
"Lance made a statement, and we understand that. Lance and I have had a conversation, and on this conversation we understand where each other is coming from and respect where each other is coming from," Angelo told ESPNChicago.com. "I've known Lance his whole career. He's always been a pro here in everything he's done, for the most part, on and off the field. I have the utmost respect and confidence that his focus now is being the best player that he can be, having another great season. That's where our focus is. So the business side of it will take care of itself down the road. Right now, our focus is on the season."
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Angelo's statement seemed to open the door to the possibility that the team might revisit Briggs' contract demands in the future. Interestingly, there's a chance -- albeit a small one -- the linebacker's contract situation might not have become an issue had the NFL lockout not occurred.
Work-stoppage rules prevented the teams from being in contact with players, which means Briggs couldn't voice his contract concerns until the start of training camp. Had Briggs' raise request been rejected by the team earlier, (prior to the NFL draft, for instance), the Bears might have been in a better position to facilitate a trade.
But the current situation doesn't allow for such an outcome.
"We did not have an offseason, and a lot of the things you deal with in the offseason we had to do on the eve of [training camp]," Angelo said. "There were other things as well, and it's just our laundry; that's just what it is. But right now we are focused on the season -- every player, every coach, and certainly myself. That's where our focus should be. That's the mantra that we all have here at Halas Hall."
Angelo declined to discuss specifics about Briggs and the team's future plans, citing the need to eliminate distractions as the regular season rapidly approaches.
Three-years into a six-year, $36 million contract signed in 2008, Briggs defended his decision to seek permission for a trade on Monday. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Briggs is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.65 million in 2011.
Teammate Brian Urlacher defended Briggs, saying the linebacker "plays great every week."
"Do I think he should get a contract? Yes," Urlacher said. "Do I think he's underpaid? Yes. Doesn't matter what I think. Doesn't matter what he thinks. It only matters what people think he deserves."
Despite the hoopla concerning the contract drama, Briggs vowed on Monday not to become a distraction.
Angelo remains confident that will be the case.
"We don't want our focus -- our players, our coaches -- on anything other than the game at hand," Angelo said. "I'm a firm believer in that. So for me to sit here and talk about something at the end of the season, that's like talking about the hereafter. I'm just not in that mindset. Are there business things that happen during the season sometimes? Yes, there are. But right now, it's about Atlanta."
Inevitably, however, given the current situation, any mistake made by Briggs -- such as a missed tackle or blown assignment -- might be tied to displeasure about his contract. Angelo understands such a situation could play out but doesn't expect any decline in play from Briggs, and he isn't concerned about perceptions from outside the organization.
"Absolutely not," Angelo said. "Is he gonna have missed tackles? Is he gonna have bad plays? Yes. He did that when he came in here as a rookie. He did when he was making all those Pro Bowls. Unfortunately, people may look at it that way. That's not being fair. That's not who he is. He's too much of a competitor. The guy will continue to be a great player. I'm glad he's on our side."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.