Commentary

Bears going the distance on adversity

Contract squabbles, a QB cursing out a coach, and now, a trip to London? A win cures all

Updated: October 21, 2011, 8:50 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- As he prepared to leave rainy, cold Chicago for, well, London, an excited Lance Briggs said he wanted to make a travel video.

"National Football League's European Vacation," perhaps? Couldn't you just picture Brian Urlacher in his monotone delivery, "Big Ben, Parliament."

[+] EnlargeUrlacher
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBrian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have different views about the Bears traveling to London to play the Buccaneers.

Fat chance there. Urlacher, ever the cultural anthropologist, said he doesn't plan on leaving his hotel room.

Much like a trip to Detroit, the Bears' overseas trip will be enjoyed by some, loathed by others. Some guys are like Briggs, a bon vivant who wants to roam London and experience some local flavor. Some are like Urlacher, a slavish creature of habit who just wants to watch an Adam Sandler movie on the hotel TV and eat a McSomething.

"At the end of the trip," Briggs said, "I think everyone will be thankful for at least the fact that you get to see something or go to a place and experience stuff you haven't experienced before."

Good news for Roy Williams, who isn't pleased about the travel but still offered up this gem to reporters.

"Are there black people over there?" he said to laughter. "I don't know."

Briggs, who said he wanted to leave early in the week like Tampa Bay, might just want to get out of Chicago. He is one of the unhappy Bears, "the other 99 percent" who are looking for new money or a return to the starting lineup. A trip outside his comfort zone could be good for his state of mind.

But as Lovie Smith pointed out, vacations are for the summer. While the setting for this week's game is different, football, as they say, is football. Except when it's soccer, but that's beside the point.

And the football, of course, is what we should be focusing on. Tampa Bay is 4-2 and in first in the NFC South by virtue of its win over New Orleans, also 4-2. The Bears are 3-3, with little chance of winning the NFC North. They are two of nine teams within striking distance of each other for that second wild-card spot.

A win over Tampa Bay gives the Bears the first wild-card tiebreaker. Sources tell me every game is important to the Bears. But whether they want to admit it or not, this game is crucial to their playoff hopes. The Bears' three losses have come to very good teams, undefeated Green Bay, 5-1 Detroit and 4-2 New Orleans. Chicago sits in a precarious position. But a convincing win over Minnesota rekindled good vibes from Lake Forest to Blue Island. Now it's time to build momentum.

"When we go to work, we go to work," Briggs said. "We study film, we study our opponent. As professionals, that's what we're supposed to do. There's always going to be distractions, every week, in some way, shape or form. But as professionals, we come prepared."

If the coaches really wanted to fire up this team and keep the Bears from getting complacent, they'd hide their electrical adaptors.

No Angry Birds = Angry Bears.

But then again, given the animosity between several veteran players and management, maybe the Bears should just motivate themselves.

Briggs is right that a good team plays through distractions. And this season has had its share already. The latest is the Chris Harris benching.

Harris, the erstwhile All-Pro starter, asked for a trade after being inactive against the Vikings. Alas it was the day before the trade deadline, so it was a frustration move more than anything real.

Briggs wants out next season if he doesn't get his deal reworked, and Matt Forte, the bang-for-your-buck back, knows he'll probably get franchised if his agent can't come to an agreement with the team for a multiyear deal. I'm sure there are other disgruntled Bears. We'll hear their stories soon.

Despite the developing situations, not to mention the slow start to the season, Briggs said the locker room hasn't been poisoned.

"We might have unhappy players," Briggs said. "But we don't have an unhappy locker room."

I don't know why we're making a big deal out of this. Bears have been disgruntled toward management since Papa Bear was tossing nickels like manhole covers. That's a great legacy of this franchise. Briggs said everyone knows the score anyway.

"I guess it's case to case," Briggs said. "I don't think it has any effect. We've always said there's a business side and there's the football. The business side should never take from the football field."

Most players are cool with the coaches, but Jay Cutler's caught-on-tape expletive toward Mike Martz showed a rift, if only temporary, that we've seen hinted at. I assume Harris isn't pleased with the safety dancer Smith.

But that's how it goes. Most NFL players are used to overcoming adversity. The very nature of the game is built on struggle.

"We're all men," Briggs said. "At the end of the day, we have to take care of our homes. No one else. It's us. I understand everyone's situation and what they have to go through and that's something everyone in the locker room understands."

From travel to turmoil, the Bears are being tested. But it's nothing a win couldn't solve. London's calling. Will the Bears answer?

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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