LAKE FOREST, Illinois — Lance Briggs figures his time with the Chicago Bears is coming to an end. He's not sure if his career is, too.
A week shy of 34 and with his contract set to expire, Briggs acknowledged his 12-year run with the Bears will likely end this season.
"It's the last year of my deal," he said. "It's not like I'm going to magically show up after this year and they're going to open the gates up for you. I've talked to my buddy (former Bear) Alex Brown — those gates are closing — you're a free agent. I know the reality of it and I'm proud of all the years I've had here. It's been great. I couldn't have asked for a better situation."
If he's not back with the Bears, will he play for another team?
"I don't know," he said — four times.
Briggs realizes it might not be his choice.
"Somebody's got to want you first and then you go from there," he said.
The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker expects to return against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers this week after missing the past three games with a rib injury. The Bears are 3-5 and trying to remain in playoff contention after dropping four of five before their bye.
No matter what happens the rest of the way, changes could be in store.
An offense that ranked among the best in club history in its first season under coach Marc Trestman last year is underachieving, even though all its starters returned. A rebuilt defense isn't performing, and a season that began with high hopes appears to be slipping away.
The past two games have been particularly ugly, with receiver Brandon Marshall overheard yelling in the locker room after a loss at home to Miami, and Tom Brady then shredding Chicago in a rout at New England.
But it's not like the defense was performing the way the Bears envisioned before the Patriots game. Whether it's poor execution or poor strategy, it's been a struggle all season for Chicago. Poor health hasn't helped, either.
The Bears lost defensive end Lamarr Houston to a season-ending knee injury sustained while celebrating a late sack against a backup quarterback in the closing minutes against New England. That was just the latest blow for a team that lost cornerback Charles Tillman to a torn right triceps in September and has been forced to get by at times without other key players.
Rib and shoulder injuries have kept Briggs out of 10 games the past two seasons after he missed only four in his first 10 years. The time off hasn't been easy for him.
"Shoot, I don't know what to do with myself sometimes," he said. "Sometimes, I sit in meetings while coaches are talking and sometimes the words kind of just faze out and I'm staring at the screen. The only thing I can tell is the time, and I'll look up at the screen and be like, 'Dang, still got 55 minutes left.' It's just been different man, just different. More coaching."
But he intends to be in the lineup this week, trying to contain Rodgers.
That's something the Bears were unable to do in late September at Soldier Field. Green Bay scored on its first six possessions and intercepted Jay Cutler twice in the third quarter to pull away for a 38-17 victory.
This time, Briggs could be making his final trip to Lambeau Field.
"I understand this is probably my last year as a Chicago Bear, and this could be the last time I play the Packers," Briggs said. "But for me ... I really do enjoy my teammates, and it's been unfortunate to watch from the sidelines because I want to see them find success, you know, and any Bear making a play is always a good thing."
NOTE: WR Marquess Wilson practiced Wednesday for the first time since he broke his collarbone on Aug. 24, starting the clock on a 21-day window to add him to the active roster. Trestman would not say if Wilson will play this week. "We're just going to go one day at a time on this and make sure that he's in the physical kind of condition he needs to be in," Trestman said.