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Bears' Briggs worried NFL's stance on hits will change style

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Add Chicago BearsPro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs to the list of players who believes the NFL is taking the wrong stance by cracking down on violent hits.

Briggs feels "very good about playing" against Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins after sitting out last weekend's loss to the Seattle Seahawks with a sprained left ankle.

What he doesn't feel good about is this: The NFL imposed big fines on three players -- Pittsburgh's James Harrison, Atlanta's Dunta Robinson and New England's Brandon Meriweather -- for illegal hits in last weekend's games. The league warned that, starting with this week's games, violent conduct will be grounds for suspension.

Briggs, like many other players, worries the league could be stripped of its identity. They don't understand how they're supposed to ease up when their job is to deliver the hardest hit they can and maybe even jar the ball out of the opponent's arms.

"If a bunch of growing men are running at each other at full speed, what do you expect?" Briggs said. "Plays aren't made in the NFL for being nice. Plays are made in the NFL for being violent. That's the way the game has been played. That's the way it's always going to be played. And to take that element out of the game, to me it's not football."

Asked if the NFL values defense as much as it should, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, "They don't. No doubt about it, they don't."

Briggs said he might alter his approach if he's fined. Until then, he won't change anything.

A more immediate concern for him is simply getting back on the field.

Briggs went through a limited practice Thursday, and having him back against the Redskins would be a big boost for a Bears defense that has been mostly effective this season but had some issues against the Seahawks.

There were missed tackles. The Bears also were picked apart by Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. And they didn't force a turnover.

It was a difficult day for a defense that ranks eighth overall. The Bears (4-2) still lead the NFC North, although they've hardly resembled a first-place team while dropping two of their last three games.

Much of the focus is on the lack of protection for quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been sacked 15 times in his last two games and sat out two weeks ago with a concussion. But the results on defense weren't there, either, against the Seahawks.

The Bears clearly were missing Briggs even if Brian Iwuh had 12 tackles in his place.

"With Lance, that guy can pop the ball out at any time," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "He can get an interception at any time, a big sack, cause a turnover or cause a fumble. So that kind of hurt. And he brings an energy. Lance loves the game with a passion. And so when he's out there, it doesn't matter what the score is, he'll always find something to kind of lift the team up. We kind of missed some of that."

The Bears allowed Hasselbeck to throw for 242 yards last week, most of them coming on short, quick passes. When the pressure came, he didn't force anything. If no one was open, he simply threw it away.

McNabb poses a different challenge. He still has mobility, not to mention the ability to hurl it downfield. He ranks sixth in the NFL with 1,561 passing yards and has five completions for 50 or more, so it would obviously help to have Briggs.

"Iwuh did a good job last week filling in for Lance, but Lance is Lance," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He does what he does. He does it better than anybody in the NFL, so we need him back out there."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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