Bears' Briggs remains sidelined by rib injury, status for clash with Dolphins in question

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LAKE FOREST, Illinois — The Chicago Bears did not rule out Lance Briggs this week. They also didn't say whether the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker will play against the Dolphins.

Briggs, who sat out in Atlanta because of a rib injury, did not practice Wednesday, and coach Marc Trestman doesn't expect him to Thursday, either. When asked whether Briggs will take the field Sunday, Trestman said, "We'll see," noting there's no indication Briggs' ribs are broken.

The Bears (3-3) knocked off the Falcons last week 27-13, the most balanced win of the season. Now, they're looking for their first home win.

Jay Cutler threw for 381 yards Sunday in the second-biggest passing game of his career, and the defense came through with one of its best performances in two seasons under coordinator Mel Tucker.

The defensive line got a boost with tackle Jeremiah Ratliff returning after missing three games because of a concussion. And the linebackers showed some speed and burst, and Atlanta managed just 12 first downs and 287 yards.

It was even more impressive considering how decimated that group was. The Bears were forced to go with Khaseem Greene, Darryl Sharpton and Christian Jones with Briggs, D.J. Williams (neck), Jonathan Bostic (back) and Shea McClellin (hand) sidelined.

They might have some more options at linebacker this week — if not some decisions to make — although Tucker indicated the starters will return to the lineup once they're ready.

"We got a one-game evaluation on these guys. They stepped in and we feel good about what they did," Tucker said. "So when guys are healthy and ready to go, I anticipate those guys getting back in there and filling those roles again."

McClellin appears close to returning after missing four games. He went through a full practice on Wednesday. Bostic was limited, and Williams did not participate.

"Getting those (starter) guys back would be great," defensive end Jared Allen said. "Only the doctors know when that's going to happen. We've got to continue to prepare as if they're not going to be there. These guys showed that they could step up to the task so we expect them to do it again."

Sharpton seemed comfortable making the calls at middle linebacker against the Falcons and was credited with 10 tackles — not bad considering he signed with Chicago three weeks ago after being released by the Washington Redskins.

He's making a good impression in Chicago, and has a history with linebackers coach Reggie Herring. They were together in Houston, where Sharpton played from 2010-13.

"We're going to need everybody as we move forward," Trestman said. "There are not only players that are playing linebacker positions, they're playing on special teams and doing other things. The more players we have available, the better off we're going to be in the total picture."

NOTES: S Chris Conte (shoulder) and RT Jordan Mills (left foot) sat out practice on Wednesday, as did RB Matt Forte and DT Stephen Paea for reasons that were not injury-related. LT Jermon Bushrod (knee/ankle), who has missed the past two games, was limited along with S Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) and CB Sherrick McManis (quadricep/knee).

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Online: AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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