By Dan Durkin-

(CBS) As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. It’s just rare to be in the moment when an athlete openly acknowledges his professional mortality right in front of you.

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For 12 seasons, Bears linebacker Lance Briggs has quietly gone about his business and developed into one of the league’s premier 4-3 weak-side linebackers. Early on, Briggs played in the shadow of Brian Urlacher. But as the Tampa-2 defense is designed to do, run plays are funneled to the weak side, and Briggs consistently met the challenge. Now 927 tackles, 16 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, seven Pro Bowls, six touchdowns and one All-Pro season later, Briggs realizes the end is near.

“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 Wednesday at Halas Hall.

That realization offered a moment for Briggs to be nostalgic about the Bears-Packers rivalry he’s been a part of 22 times in his career. The teams meet again Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

“I scored my first touchdown at Lambeau — back in 2003 with Brett Favre,” Briggs said. “That’s memorable, very, very memorable. I remember the ball sailing up, and I remember getting twirled around by Bryan Robinson and him just hurling the ball up and into the air. 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.”

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While Briggs has lost a step on the field, over the the past three weeks, the defense has missed Briggs’ leadership and football acumen on the field as he’s sat out with a rib injury. The linebacker play has been poor both in play recognition, discipline and getting properly aligned. The constant shuffling at the position has been a huge factor.

This week, the Bears project to have both Briggs and Jon Bostic back on the field. Given the Packers’ preference for 11 (three-wide receiver) personnel, having their top two nickel linebackers could provide a boost to a Bears pass defense that has been victimized over the past two weeks.

The Bears need all the help they can get against the Packers. The last time these two met at Soldier Field in Week 4, the Bears defense didn’t force a punt in a 38-17 drubbing by the Packers.

Asked if this would be his last season in the NFL, Briggs repeated, “I don’t know” four times in a row. But Briggs does know he couldn’t be happier for every moment he had in Chicago.

“I know the reality of it, and I’m proud of all the years I’ve had here,” said Briggs, who is in the final year of his contract. “It’s been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”

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Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.