"I definitely liked what I saw," said T Marc Colombo. "I ran into him in the training area and he immediately stopped to chat. Coach Lovie Smith was friendly and seemed extremely intelligent. I think that he has some good ideas for the direction of this franchise. Sometimes change can be good. I think that in hiring him, the Bears made a very positive statement to all of us."
When asked if he perceived Smith as a player's coach, which had been his reputation as defensive coordinator at St. Louis, Colombo readily agreed.
"There's something in the way he looks at you," Colombo said. You can tell that he knows exactly what is going on. He's taking it all in. But he is also easy to talk to. He can relate to you on a player's level. I've heard that he can be demanding, but that's fine. It's expected that a coach would want the best from his players. That's why he was hired. I'm really looking forward to playing for him."
First round draft pick DT Michael Haynes was equally enthusiastic, although he wondered about the number of new schemes that Smith would be bringing to Halas Hall.
"This is going to be interesting," Haynes said. "There were so many rookies who played quite a bit this past season. We learned the plays from the coaches at that time. Now with a new group of coaches coming in, it could be time to start all over again. I'm wondering if, for many of us, it won't feel as if we are rookies all over again."
Haynes explained that it isn't so much a matter of relearning the playbook as it is of absorbing a new coach's style.
"Everybody has his own unique approach," Haynes said. "That was true in college, and it's true in t he NFL. It takes quite a while to learn what is expected of you. How your coach wants you to move, what type of defense he prefers. I can see that we'll be changing a lot of things this year. But that can be a good thing. Coach Smith seems very knowledgeable and he could be putting us in some very positive situations."
What has Haynes seen as far as the mood of the team so far?
"Not everybody has had the chance to meet with Coach Smith yet," Haynes said. "But I think they'll be very impressed when they do. He is enthusiastic and he seems to care about his players. I've herd from friends of mine who played for him at St. Louis that he is an excellent coach. I guess that the players there are very sorry to see him leave."
On the other side of the ball, RB Anthony Thomas sees some opportunities that weren't in place last season.
"I like what he's saying about opening up the offense," Thomas said. "We just weren't getting it done last year. Coach Smith talked about using both the running and the passing game and emphasizing the offensive line. That's all good for me. The more holes that the O-line can create, the better it is for my running game. And if we can bring in some innovative schemes, it won't be so easy for defenses to read us all the time."
WR Marty Booker agreed:
"You never know for sure when somebody new comes in, but Coach Smith is saying all the right things. I know that we have a lot to work on to improve over last year. I'm definitely willing to try what he has to show us. It can be upsetting to a certain extent when you have to change a lot of things, but this could be the beginning of a lot of positives for the Bears."
QB Rex Grossman found Smith's composure reassuring.
"You don't want a coach who is going to go wild on you," he said. "From the first time I saw Coach Smith, I felt that he was in control and very intelligent. The results remain to be seen, of course, but this is an excellent start. For now, I am waiting to see who he will be bringing in as his coordinators. Coach Smith seems to be an excellent judge of character, and I see no reason he couldn't have some top assistants coming in to Halas Hall in the coming weeks."