Bears Lovie-ing it

First-year Chicago coach Lovie Smith talks Bears and 49ers:

Q: In your first year as a NFL head coach, what changes have you made from the Dick Jauron coaching era in Chicago?

Smith: Well, to be truthful, I don't know exactly what Dick did. I just know what we believe in and what we do. To say in the blueprints what we would like to be, we would like to be a running football team that can pass the ball. Defensively, we would like to rely on speed and quickness and play in an aggressive approach to the game, get turnovers and go that way. That is what we are trying to do now.

Q: How much do you need running back Thomas Jones to come through while rookie quarterback Craig Krenzel gets situated?

Smith: Well, we would rely on the running game anyway, but of course it is critical now. That is the easiest thing to do is to hand the ball off. One of the strengths of our team is the offensive line. We realize we have to run the football in order for us to be successful. That will take a lot of the pressure off of Craig, but you can't just run every time. Of course, you have to be able to do something with the passing game. We feel like we can do something with the passing game also. David Terrell has had a couple of 100-yard games receiving the football. We think our receiving corps can be good when we are able to get them the ball.

Q: Do you have defensive pieces in place with the Bears to have success like you did against the 49ers when you were with the Rams?

Smith: We think we have the majority of the pieces in place to be successful here defensively. We put quite a bit into our defensive line. I really believe it starts up front like most people. In time, we will have a very good defensive line. Adewale Ogunleye. Alex Brown has really played well lately. Tommie Harris, our first-rounder, has really played well. Ian Scott. We feel like we are coming along on the defensive line. They are young still. Linebacker-wise, Brian Urlacher's hamstring injury has knocked him back a little bit, but he should be able to practice this week the entire time. Lance Briggs has to come along. In the secondary, we haven't played as well as I think we will, but we have some talent there also.

Q: Was Thomas Jones a totally different running back with the Cardinals than he is now with the Bears?

Smith: I don't exactly know what happened when he was in Arizona, but I know when he was with Tampa last year with the Buccaneers, he showed flashes of being what he is turning out to be, and that is a very good football player. Of course, he can run with power. He has the speed to get outside. He has excellent hands also to catch the ball out of the backfield. I don't know exactly what happened in the past at Arizona or different places, but we're just happy that we have him here now.

Q: Can you compare him to Marshall Faulk?

Smith: I think it is unfair to compare many people or anyone really. Marshall Faulk has done it over a long period of time. He is one of the all-time good running backs to play our game. It is too early to talk that way about Thomas, but I think Thomas can really be a good back in this system also.

Q: Why are interceptions down this season, and does it have to do with new rules?

Smith: I can't really say that is the reason why they are down. I didn't even realize they were down that much. I just think a lot of times turnovers come in bunches and for whatever reason, they haven't happened an awful lot. Maybe it is just that most people put a big emphasis on the run. It's hard to say exactly why. Maybe it is a simple as the quarterbacks taking better care of the football. I can't really give you a reason why that is happening.

Q: What are the major differences between 49ers offense now to those past?

Smith: Well, I think it is a typical — as you talk about their offense — it is a typical 49ers offense. You know that you have to contend with their skill athletes. There is a different quarterback, but they are getting the same results. Rattay is really playing well. The offensive line, you know they are going to fight you throughout. The receivers can make big plays. Down in the Arizona game and being able to come back the way they did, they've been in every, besides the Seattle game, they've been in every game really. So, I don't see a big difference. Right now, the record doesn't show it. But to me, it is the same San Fran offense that can put points on the board and move the ball.

Q: What happened to Bears after 2001?

Smith: Again, I think there is parity in the league and it is hard to maintain a constant level of being on top. It's just not the Bears. I think you can look at most teams that way. The 49ers have been up and they've been down a little bit lately. I think each team will have their period of time where they are up a little. I don't know exactly the reason why and I don't know what has happened here in the past. I just know right now, we have our team. We're building a strong foundation and hopefully we can get over some of those things and be a consistent team that contends every year.

Q: Is the way the 49ers have brought along Tim Rattay for several years ideal for a backup quarterback becoming starter?

Smith: I definitely think that is the ideal situation is to bring quarterbacks along slowly, where they get a chance to sit. In Rattay's situation to sit behind a very good football player in Garcia and see exactly how he did it, I think that is the ideal situation. But, you know how it goes. Mostly, you have to react to what is happening with you at the time. Most of the time, you can't get in that situation where you can let a quarterback sit that long. That has been the situation with us with Krenzel. That was even a situation before Krenzel. We were starting Rex Grossman in his second year. Sometimes you just have to play the best guy you have and you find out good things can still happen when they happen.

Q: What stands out about Rattay?

Smith: Well, he can throw the football. By being around the system and being in the system for so long, he really knows the offense. What we were talking about certain quarterbacks having ‘it', I think he has that. I can remember last year when you mentioned when I was with the Rams, I remember when he came in and played against us last year and he really had a great game. He's a good quarterback and of course he can manage the game and throw the football.

Q: What were your expectations of first-round draft pick Tommie Harris coming into this year?

Smith: I think now, with the amount of money that you pay first-rounders, it's a ‘what can you do' type league, too. Looking at Tommie coming in, I knew he had great ability. He was an explosive player. When I got a chance to meet him, I really liked him and thought he would really fit in. So coming in, we really did have high hopes for him. I pictured him playing this year. I thought he could make that switch. What I've seen from him is a guy with a lot of ability that is getting better and better each week who has unlimited potential. So, it's hard to say how good he really can be, but I just think in time he is going to be a very good football player, which I think he is right now.

Q: Did 49ers contact you for job when Steve Mariucci was fired?

Smith: No, I wasn't contacted.

Q: How did you feel about that?

Smith: I really didn't. I was never involved. I just always thought if I did a good job with what I was in charge of and being a coordinator that I would get an opportunity and I would get the perfect opportunity when my time came. If you keep doing your job, you will get an opportunity and that is what happened to me. It worked out good for the 49ers and I could not be more pleased to be the head football coach here.

Q: What in general do you have to do to beat 49ers?

Smith: I can't say that it is any different than any other team that you are trying to beat as far as our formula. You have to be able to score some points of course. Besides the Seattle game, they have put points on the board. For us, we need to get turnovers, need to put some points on the board and really just start finding our identity now that we've changed quarterbacks and see exactly what we are on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, we just need to play our best game, which we haven't played. Eliminate the mistakes and just see exactly what we can be. We have a lot of young players, but it is time for us to really kind of step up and be the best team we can be. We feel once we are doing that and we're not beating ourselves, we'll be able to win some games.


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