LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- For Lance Briggs, it was a helpless feeling.
He couldn't run or lift weights for a while let alone suit up for the Chicago Bears as he tried to work his way back from a shoulder injury. All he could do is let it heal.
''That's been kind of tough,'' he said.
This could be, too.
The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker could be making his return against the Eagles and their fast-paced offense when the Bears visit Philadelphia on Sunday. And he acknowledged his conditioning could be tested.
''It's going to be, 'Strap it on and see what happens,''' Briggs said. ''I've been playing football for a long time and it just so happens that we're going against a team that runs 80 plays a game offensively so that'll be interesting.''
He said he still needs to be cleared medically, but he appears to be on track to play after missing the past seven games because of a small fracture in his left shoulder. Briggs was injured in a loss at Washington on Oct. 20 and has been limited in practice since he returned last week.
''I can tell you that he's going to practice tomorrow again and it looks like we're moving in the right direction,'' coach Marc Trestman said. ''I stand by being optimistic. You've always got to be cautiously optimistic because you don't know what the next day is going to bring, but based on the first two days of practice, we're really hopeful that he'll be able to play on Sunday night.''
Getting Briggs back would obviously be a huge boost for the Bears as they try to lock up the NFC North and get back to the playoffs after missing out five of the previous six years under former coach Lovie Smith.
They lead the division at 8-6, with Green Bay (7-6-1) and Detroit (7-7) trying to stay in the race, and Chicago could lock it up this week with a win and some help. Otherwise, they will be fighting for a playoff spot when they close out the season with a home game against the Packers next week.
Briggs' return would ease some of the load on a defense that's been shredded by injuries and ranks last against the run. They're staring at the league's leading rusher in LeSean McCoy, but they could also be getting their best defensive player back.
That can't hurt.
''I think that if Lance has a chance to play, I think that lifts our football team,'' Trestman said. ''How much he'll play? I don't know. But the type of player he is, whatever that might be, I think that lifts our football team to some degree on Sunday night. That can only be a good thing for our football team if he is cleared to play and he has the opportunity to play whatever amount of snaps that he's able to play.''
For Briggs, the past two months haven't been easy. The Bears initially thought he would miss about six weeks, but the recovery has taken longer, and there was talk at one point of going on injured reserve, ending his season.
''I'm here now,'' he said. ''I just want to play football.''
Briggs had never missed more than two games in a season, and he acknowledged he felt a bit helpless. He couldn't run or work out for a while. All he could do is heal and try to stay positive.
''I guess the one positive was when you go into the training room at that time, it was like being in the MASH unit,'' Briggs said. ''There's so many other guys that were in there, we were just all sharing jokes and stuff. That helped lift spirits.''
The Bears lost defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Charles Tillman to season-ending injuries. Other key players have been banged up, forcing Chicago to juggle its lineup, and Briggs did what he could to help out while he was sidelined.
''His demeanor was outstanding,'' Trestman said. ''He became a coach on the field, I think you saw some of that in our pre-practice work, you saw him out there. He was vocal in practice, encouraging to the young guys, did a great job communicating with them, and did the same in meetings.''
NOTES: WR Brandon Marshall returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out the previous day because of a hamstring problem. ''Just precautionary,'' Trestman said. ''I'm sure he'll get a little bit more tomorrow, he got a little bit more today than he did yesterday. Just trying to take care of him and his legs as we move into the weekend.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org