Lovie affair in Chicago

Chicago coach Lovie Smith talks Bears and 49ers and discusses the development of rookie quarterback Kyle Orton and the first-place Bears' surprising two-game lead in the NFC North at midseason, among other topics.

Q: How pleased are you feeling with the way the season has started for your team?

Smith:
We like the position that we're in right now. We've made a lot of progress and improvements. We're anxious to get to the next half of the season to see where we can go from there.

Q: When you guys start the season with a rookie quarterback, don't you assume that your better half will be the second part of the season?

Smith:
Not necessarily. When we started the season, we weren't expecting to start off 1-3. We knew that we were going to have some growing pains with Kyle and it's still a learning process. He's a rookie, but he's getting better and better.

Q: What did you think that your record would be?

Smith:
Like all teams we expected to have a good season with more wins than losses. Very few start off and expect to be 1-3.

Q: Do you think that the first year of a coaching term is better than the second in many cases?

Smith:
Of course this is all new to me, but normally the longer that you're doing something the better you get. There is no substitute for experience. You don't plan on the amount of injuries. I know the Niners have had some injuries, but our first year we had quite a few that knocked our plans back a little bit. You have to deal with them. The most important thing that we were trying to do was establish our systems and try to get our philosophies in place so that we can go from there.

Q: When you were at 1-3, did you ever consider pulling the plug on your rookie quarterback?

Smith:
No not at all. We didn't play well as a team. I was please with what our rookie quarterback was able to do. He had a tough chore against Washington on the road in the first game and I thought he held up well. He came back the next week and had a great game. He had a bad game against Cincinnati, but since then he's played consistent football. We never thought about pulling the plug at all. He's our quarterback and we're pleased with what he's doing.

Q: How did you feel when you got him that late in the draft, considering that earlier in the year he was ranked a lot higher?

Smith:
We definitely thought we got a steal. The quarterback means quite a bit to our football team, but the quarterback is just one piece of it. We're a running football team and we have a veteran offensive line so we knew that that would be our bread and butter. We wanted to put our quarterback in a position where he could manage the football team and not have to win every game with 400 yards passing. That's what we are becoming.

Q: Your defense is number three in the league and the Niners rate pretty low and you're playing at home, so how confident does that make you feel?

Smith:
I think that statistics can say what you want them to say. They mean very little once you get to the football game. We didn't play well defensively this past week. This is what I know about the 49ers: They played a good Tampa Bay defense a couple of weeks ago and they played well against them. They got the win and really did what they wanted to. They played a very good New York Giants defense last week and they got some things done. They have some very good running backs, a very young quarterback and I know that their offensive line has done some things. We just think that it's another challenge. All teams can beat you in the National Football League. It's not much different from one team to another.

Q: Who is going to do the running for you during this game?

Smith:
The same guys that normally do: Thomas Jones is our starter and we've played Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson. Jones has a rib injury that he's dealing with, but hopefully he'll be ready to go this week.

Q: What's the ripple effect of not having to invest the amount of money into a player the way that the 49ers did?

Smith:
If you can find a bargain at any position it benefits you at any position. The biggest thing to me is getting your franchise quarterback in place. Whatever you have to do to get him in place is what you need to do. Whether that's getting lucky and grabbing him in the later rounds or having to draft him high. No matter what you do you have to make sure that you have that quarterback in place and that's what they did. They had a high pick and got a good player who is going to be a great quarterback in the league.

Q: Do you have your franchise quarterback in place?

Smith:
We hope we do. Of course we talked a lot about what Kyle Orton is able to do for us and he is a good player. We love him in that position. We like our quarterback position as a whole and the guys that we have here. Rex Grossman is coming back later on and he'll only make the quarterback position better. Jeff Blake has also played good for us.

Q: What were your impressions of Cody Pickett in last week's game?

Smith:
He's an athlete and a tough player who has good athletic abilities. You would like for your quarterback to be a tough guy and bring toughness to the position. When you have a guy whose been playing on special teams that says a lot about him. Of course we like him and I like what he's able to do when plays break down. He's just doing a good job for them.


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