I'm having a hard time deciding what's going on with the Chicago Bears. Is it a simple matter of having a few players looking for new contracts? Or does the prominent identities of those players make the current situation more of a crisis than it appears?
At any given time, every NFL team has a player or two who either thinks he is underpaid or is pushing hard to engage the team in contract negotiations. On that level, the Bears are no different. But in their case, it's three of their best and/or well-known players: Linebacker Lance Briggs, running back Matt Forte and safety Chris Harris.
The Bears have denied trade requests from Briggs and Harris, who has been benched in the final year of his contract. Meanwhile, the Bears broke off contract discussions with Forte during the preseason. The decision hardly impacted the performance of Forte, who has pushed his way into MVP consideration with 908 all-purpose yards in six games.
On the whole, it appears Briggs considers the situation closer to a crisis than standard NFL fare. This week, he told Comcast SportsNet Chicago that there is "a big transition going on right now in Chicago" and added:
"I think it takes away from wanting to just go out on the field and just play. Football careers are not like normal careers. It's very short. It can end on any given day. For guys like us, it literally is a league about what have you done for me lately, and it's also about getting what you can while you can."
On Thursday, Briggs told reporters: "We might have unhappy players, but we don't have an unhappy locker room."
Again, every NFL team has an unhappy player or two. But what if your unhappy players are your top running back, one of your best defensive players and a one-time starter who was suddenly benched this season? Is that enough to alter a team's competitiveness? I think we're about to find out.