Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is looking forward to relaxing at home during the bye week and with the team now at 4-3, Smith's planned vacation will be less stressful than if it had happened two weeks ago.
"We watched the film on the way back from London," Smith said. "We had some good things and we had some not-so-good things. There's plenty to improve upon but also plenty to be pleased about. We faced a good team that had some great plays. We were able to come out on top and that's where we are right now. You always want to get to the bye week on a couple of wins like we have."
Smith sees the off week as a final chance to rest his players before the playoff drive in the season's second half.
"Most importantly, I think, is that we should have all our injured players back before the Eagles game. The guys who have been in have been playing real well so that will give us some additional options, some added depth, going through."
Smith mentioned that the two days of practice before the mandated break were an excellent opportunity to work out some of the younger players.
"We kept a lot of our veterans, and of course the injured players, out this week while we took another look at the young guys. The vets need the chance to regain their strength and this gives us the chance to see what some of the other players can do at this point. I particularly enjoy seeing the guys who normally don't get a lot of reps."
Smith also seemed to relish the opportunity to take a deep breath before the team's next phase.
"There tends to be a lot of pressure during those last few weeks of the season," he said. "That's why we think it's important for the guys to take a break. Some go home, some stay around here, but at least it's a time when they don't need to be thinking about football all day every day. I can understand that. It goes for me as well."
Next on the schedule for the Bears is a Monday night game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Eagles are 0-2 at home and are currently last in the NFC East.
"It will be a challenging game for us, a big game, as road games always are," said Smith. "There are some things we need to improve on before, hopefully, we are ready to make a run. I think we are forming our identity. Our foundation is running the football and we've been able to do that well. On defense we've stopped the run well the past couple of weeks. We know what we can do with our special teams. We'll just continue to grow. I feel good about our football team and I'm excited about the next phase. "
Smith's message to his players before they break apart during bye weekend is nothing new to these players.
"The same thing I say every year: Heal up, get away from football, spend time with your family, enjoy college games and take some time to enjoy life. Next week will come around much quicker than you might think."
And Will Smith follow his own advice?
"I certainly plan to. I need to recharge as well. I plan to relax and spend time at home with my wife."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.