Licking their wounds

Disappointment over the results of Sunday's game against the Rams was almost palpable in the Bears locker room Monday morning as players stopped by only to retrieve street clothing before heading elsewhere. Among the few who lingered to speak to reporters, the mood was subdued and comments tended to be brief.

LB Lance Briggs bent over gingerly to tie his street shoes, still suffering from the back spasms he incurred early Sunday morning.

"I felt things tightened up just before the game," he said. "It couldn't have happened at a worse time. I took some anti-inflammatories, hoping that would solve the problem, but I was bothered by the spasms all afternoon. Today it feels much stiffer, but the day after you play, that is to be expected."

Briggs has been one of the few good news stories of the 2003 season, as the capable rookie has stepped up his level of play to meet the demands of a professional career. Even though he had to leave the field several times during the course of the St Louis game and was sidelined for good shortly before the end of the fourth quarter, he was still able to record 5 solo tackles.

By Monday, Briggs was also nursing a badly swollen right eye, the result of an unintentional Rams finger through the face mask incident during the second half.

"I look and feel like I've been in a fight," Briggs said. "I wasn't too sure who did it because at the time that wasn't my primary concern. He really got me good. It was incredibly painful. I checked to be sure that my eye hadn't popped out. I can't imagine that any player would have done anything like that on purpose."

Battered but for the most part unbowed, Briggs stated that he was looking forward to practice this week but wouldn't be rushing the healing process.

"You want to be sure that something bad doesn't come up later," he said. "It's a matter that the trainers and I will be talking about. Hopefully, I'll be good to go by next Sunday."

For DE Alex Brown, the post game pain was more mental than physical.

"It was so frustrating to be so close to a win," he said. "What we needed was just one more play but we didn't get that right. It's really tough at times, especially when you get that close and it slips away. You end up going through every play in your head for hours after you've left the stadium trying to find that one thing you could have done to make more of a difference."

For Brown, a student of the game who finds satisfaction only in a win, it's all in the details.

"It's never the big plays, it's always the little things," Brown said. "That makes it even harder when you lose. Maybe you were an inch away from toughing the quarterback's arm when he was starting his pass. Maybe you could have rushed a little faster, batting a ball away at the last second. What if you'd been further down field for an interception instead of missing and letting the ball slip through your hands? In retrospect, it's always the little things that turn out to have been crucial."

Brown, who had 5 tackles and one sack, did express a degree of pleasure in the overall level of defensive play.

"Sacks are big time. We wanted that badly and ended up with 5. The coverage by the DBs was excellent. Everybody played hard and went all out for the win. We only needed to stop their offense a little longer to come out on top. Sometimes in close games like this luck comes into play. Obviously, it wasn't on our side."

Are Bears players now suffering through a crisis in confidence? Not in Brown's opinion.

"Overall, we are a confident group of guys. Going into this game nobody thought that we had a chance but we were in it the entire time. We thought that we were going to win, which is why the outcome was such a disappointment."

For Brown, bringing the team to the next level means less time that the defensive unit is on the field.

"We should be out there, get our job done, and then leave to let the offense score some points," Brown said. "That's how you win the game. You have to give the Rams credit because they found that way to make things happen."

Does ‘making things happen' for the Bears involve moving Rex Grossman up to starter?

"I can't say. That's not my call. I don't make those kinds of decisions," Brown said." But I do know Rex well. I've been friends with him for years. I know that he is a playmaker who definitely will spark an offense. But at this point, that's only my opinion. He can't prove that until he gets out there. When his time does come, he's going to make an impact."

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