Column on Lance Briggs debacle.
In less than three minutes, Lance Briggs stammered “uh” at least 15 times. There were another eight “ums” in his impromptu mea culpa Tuesday to the assembled media at Halas Hall. And even though the normally smooth-talking linebacker tossed in no less than two dozen “you knows” (counting a “you know what I mean” and a “you know what I'm saying”), he still managed to craft a more successful bit of damage control than his ever more distressingly smug coach. Somebody please tell Lovie Smith he has done Briggs and the Bears franchise no favors with a blind support made up of ridiculous assertions wrapped in condescension and finished with the piquant whiff of self-importance. Briggs sounded nervous in talking for the first time about wrecking his Lamborghini on the Edens in the wee hours of Monday morning. He should have, considering he was revealing that, after fleeing the scene, he initially told the police the car was stolen before “fessing up that he had been at the wheel.” Of course, since he apparently called a tow truck before reporting the car stolen, perhaps he was nervous the members of the press corps would burst out laughing. He should have known they wouldn't, as they'd already shown remarkable restraint a day earlier, when Smith was asked a completely reasonable question about whether alcohol had been involved in the crash, discovered at 3:14 a.m. Monday by state police. “Now how do we get to that part?” Smith said with overripe indignation heavy on each word. “We have a one-car accident and now, alcohol is involved? “I think it's stretching it a little bit to go that far.” Please. Most of us have to stretch farther for the remote control than we do to wonder whether alcohol played a role in a one-car crash at that hour of the morning. Unfortunately, it's not that much greater a stretch to wonder whether the Bears, and Smith in particular, have shut off the common sense portions of their brains when it comes to players as talented as Briggs — or, say, Tank Johnson. After all, as he dismissed the very idea of alcohol being involved, Smith said, “What I talked to Lance about was that he's OK, and we're happy about that. ... That's about all I've talked to him about.” Yet, on Tuesday, when asked about WMAQ-TV's report that Briggs had been sighted at two Chicago nightclubs in the hours before his accident, Smith labeled the report “hearsay.” “I don't go on a lot of that,” he added. “The facts haven't come out to me that way.” So, to clarify: On Monday, Smith talked to Briggs only about his health. On Tuesday, he knew enough about the facts to completely dismiss the work of a local TV station that does itself absolutely no favors by reporting negatively on the most popular team in town. (For the record, The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the owner of one of the bars cited in the Channel 5 report, while saying Briggs was a regular, denied he was at the establishment on the evening before the wreck.) The tone Smith took was hardly a new one. By turns blank, elusive, imperial and adversarial, Smith routinely gives the public nary a glimpse at the man he seemed so proud to be during the pre-Super Bowl hype: A humble man of God, grateful he and Tony Dungy had the opportunity to show the world one needn't be a bully to be a successful NFL coach. Reasonable questions yet unanswered include these: Who got Briggs home after the wreck? Perhaps a teammate? While Briggs made it sound as if he called for the tow truck and the police shortly after the accident, why did state police reportedly say Briggs didn't contact them until five hours after the car was discovered? Doesn't his initial call to the police reflect something more deliberate than the panic that Briggs claimed caused him to flee? Oh, yes, and are the Bears going to advance him more of his salary so he can cover the deductible? Not that answers of any substance are coming from Smith, who preferred to contend that it was Briggs' idea all along to address the media, adding, “Lance isn’t a guy who’s trying to run from anything.” Except the scene of an accident. And, in a contract dispute, the collectively bargained rules governing his salary. And the media members who would ask him about any of the above. Check that. Briggs did take one question Tuesday, when he was asked if the accident left him a changed man. “It did change me, absolutely,” he said. “I'm very lucky to have made it out the way I did, you know?” Sorry, Lance. In the Bears universe, I can't know anything without Lovie's approval. Phil Arvia can be reached at email@example.com or (708) 633-5949. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/arvia.