Fresh start

Most would assume the defensive players were most happy about the hiring of a defensive minded coach, but in the end the men on the other side of the ball had the biggest smiles about the future.

While David Terrell complained about John Shoop during and especially after the season, Anthony Thomas and Marty Booker held their tongues for the majority of the Shoop era. However Thursday marked a new start for both players and they didn't hesitate to exercise the demons of the past offensive coordinator.

"I'd rather play any kind of system beside the one we had, but we just got to see what he (Smith) brings in and see what offensive coordinator comes in," Thomas said.

Lovie Smith plans on taking a page out of the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs offensive playbooks and putting more emphasis on the passing attack, a category the Bears ranked 30th in the league in last year. Still a sound running game will be vital when the weather in Chicago turns to rain, sleet and snow.

"I'm going to be excited if he brings anything from them guys," Thomas said at the chance of running a similar offense to Rams and Chiefs. "Those guys are pretty good on both sides of the ball."

In an injury plagued year Booker led the team with just 52 receptions after compiling 197 catches over the two previous seasons. Booker is excited about the prospect of hitting the century and beyond.

"Maybe I could be Torry Holt," Booker joked. "He's talking good things, so I think things will work out around here. A lot of things are easier said than done. Hopefully he says the offense will be generated around Kansas City and the Rams. Those guys have well-balanced attacks. They like to throw the ball, run the ball, and run stuff over five yards, so that will be a lot more exciting.

"It's been bad around here for so long. I feel the only way we can go is up. I'm pretty excited and hope it all works out."

Finding an offensive coordinator is the next important move for Smith. The frontrunner at this point looks to be Kansas City quarterbacks coach Terry Shea. He has spent the majority of his coaching career in college before joining the Chiefs in 2001. While Shea has been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the collegiate ranks he's never had play-calling responsibility in the NFL.

Smith doesn't see that as a hindering factor considering he himself didn't call a defensive play until becoming the St. Louis defensive coordinator in 2001.

Smith admitted that the Bears will only go as far as Rex Grossman will take the offense. Despite having a quarterback that has only three career starts, Smith believes that a playoff run next year is a definite possibility.

"It's not a rebuilding process that we see ourselves going through," Smith said. "We're just adding a little bit and making that jump to be the playoffs next year."

Grossman doesn't seem to mind the pressure his new head coach put on his arm.

"I think we're going to have a great defense, so as long as we can score some points and be consistent on offense, we'll have a real good shot to make the playoffs," Grossman said.

Grossman will now have to learn a fourth offense in the past four years not to mention working with four different offensive coordinators. Still the quarterback remains upbeat at the prospect of passing the ball more frequently.

"I love what they've done in the past. "There's going to be a lot of similar plays, but what comes in to play is the offensive coordinator is going to call plays differently, he's going to have a different approach to the game. There may be a lot of new plays, but just from watching teams in the NFL, a lot of teams run the same plays, it's just when you call those plays and the personality of the offensive coordinator."

The benefit of Grossman going through various systems is that he's become adaptable. He'll also have three-and-a-half more months to work within the new offensive considering he didn't know what team would draft him coming out of Florida. Not to mention the fact that he's going to get the bulk of the reps from day one of mini-camp.

"Last year I was just anxious and nervous for about six months straight not knowing where I was going to be," Grossman said. "Now I know what's out in front of me and I've just got to make myself better and learn the offense and there's no uncertainty. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

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