-- LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Veteran linebacker Lance Briggs sees the end approaching to his illustrious 12-year tenure with the franchise, and appears comfortable with the situation, saying Wednesday that "I understand this is probably my last year as a Chicago Bear."
A seven-year Pro Bowler with a contract set to expire at the end of the season, Briggs turns 34 in just a week, and isn't expecting the Bears to put an offer on the table prior to him hitting free agency.
"It's the last year of my deal. 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," Briggs said. "I've talked to my buddy [former Bears defensive end] 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."
Having missed the team's last three games with a rib injury, Briggs is set to make his return Sunday when the Bears play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Briggs spent practice on Wednesday taking first-team repetitions, which represents somewhat of a change for the linebacker as he worked with the scout team during recovery from the rib injury.
"Lance, it's great to have him back," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "He's a really good leader for us and he's a playmaker. We need him to do his job. That's going to be big for us."
Briggs currently earns $4.75 million in base salary from a three-year extension signed back in 2012, but likely won't be able to command such a salary to return to the Bears in 2015. Briggs said "I don't know" when asked whether he thinks 2014 will be his last season in the NFL.
Besides that, Briggs saw firsthand how negotiations played out with former Bears defensive stalwart Brian Urlacher, who wasn't re-signed prior to last season.
"I understand it. 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 just, I really enjoy my teammates, and it's been unfortunate to watch from the sidelines because I want to see them find success."
As it stands now, Briggs has missed a total of 10 games over the past two seasons. Briggs missed seven outings last year due to a fractured shoulder. In five games this season, Briggs has contributed 44 tackles and an interception.
Asked about his best memory of playing at Lambeau Field, Briggs pointed to an interception returned 45 yards for a touchdown during his rookie season.
"I scored my first touchdown at Lambeau back in '03 with Brett Favre," Briggs said. "It felt like it was in the air forever, and I was just saying, 'Lance, please don't drop this.' It was fun. I've had great battles at Lambeau, really, really great battles, and I'll never forget it."