All Lovie Smith had to do was look at the calendar to become optimistic about linebacker Lance Briggs.
"It’s as simple as it’s training camp time," the Chicago Bears head coach said Thursday. Practice starts at 3 p.m. today.
"Lance missed mandatory minicamp. Beyond that, it’s training camp time and he’s showing up."
Briggs, the team’s franchised player, agreed Wednesday to a one-year, $7.2 million deal. Smith said Briggs has been excused for a couple of days to take care of personal matters and could arrive Sunday. Briggs might not work out until Monday, as Smith said "there is no timetable."
There was the usual conjecture while Briggs objected to being franchised.
Maybe he’d be dealt to Washington; maybe he’d sit out the first 10 games. Maybe he wouldn’t show up at all.
"A lot of things are said during the offseason," Smith said at a news conference at Olivet Nazarene University. "I don’t put a lot of stock in a lot of it. I put stock into when it’s time to go to work, who’s there. I’m excited that Lance will be here."
Smith said he kept in communication with Briggs during the offseason, and that Briggs kept in touch with teammates. That kept Smith hopeful.
"If you allow yourself to go with some of the things (that are said and written) ... It’s not good, though, when a player’s not here for the offseason program," Smith said. "We put a big emphasis on guys being here in the offseason. Lance wasn’t here, so I was concerned about that."
The players are as relieved as Smith that the issue has been settled.
"He’s a great, great player," safety Mike Brown said. "It means a lot to this team."
Second-year linebacker Jamar Williams, who took Briggs’ snaps with the first team in his absence, understandably had mixed emotions.
"I was kind of looking forward to coming in and starting," he said. "I still know I have to work for everything.
"It’s great to have a teammate back, especially the caliber of Lance. I look forward to seeing him because I haven’t seen him in a while."
Can you see me now?
Safety Chris Harris might have the least impressive TV of all the Bears at training camp — a 19-inch black and white.
A TV reporter "gave" Harris some money on camera to upgrade.
"Maybe I could go to 27 (inches) and it’d be in color," kidded Harris, adding that he has to get up and turn the channels because he doesn’t even have a remote.
"As long as it gives me a picture, I don’t care."
So, what’s he going to watch?
"I brought a bunch of reruns," he said.
That’s how linebacker Jamar Williams felt making his way to Bourbonnais. "I was so excited," he said of the drive. "The whole route up I couldn’t stop thinking about this camp. As I got closer, my heart started pounding a lot more.
"I just can’t wait until we get out there. It’s been a while for me to get out there."
Williams played in the first three games last year before a chest injury landed him on injured reserve.
Freshman once again
First-round draft pick Greg Olsen said being an NFL rookie "is a little similar" to starting college at Miami, Fla., as a freshman.
"You’re not exactly sure where to go or where you’re supposed to be," the tight end said. "You catch on quick, and it gets easier every day."
Lovie Smith had to stop and think of who won’t be ready to go when he blows the whistle to start the team’s training camp at 3 p.m. today.
"I’m trying to think ... That’s good when you can’t think of anyone who won’t practice the first day," he said. "We should have all of our team out there and ready to go."
Staff writer Reed Schreck can be reached at 815-987-1381 or email@example.com.