Friday Notebook

It's never too early to make a first impression on a new coaching staff and Bobby Gray is hoping to do just that during this weekend. The third-year safety is back at Halas Hall and feels prepared to win a starting job.

"I'm rested and ready to go," Gray said at mini-camp Friday. "I've spent most of the off-season working on my conditioning and on my speed. I think that my reaction time is excellent. I am probably in the best condition that I have ever been."

Gray, who was out for most of his rookie season with a wrist injury, split time at strong safety with Mike Green, who missed six games last year because of a groin injury.

Green will not practice this weekend as he's still ailing from the injury. Still the battle for the starting role will come down to Green and Gray.

"Mike's a fine player. I am too," Gray said. "I think that a little competition for position can be a good thing for the team. You want the guy out there who is going to do the best job. Naturally, I think that I'm that one."

Gray had the opportunity to meet the new coaches recently and has liked what he's seen so far.

"I think that there is the chance to take things in a very positive direction," Gray said. "What I noticed today was that everybody seems to be playing at a higher level. This is a definite change over what I experienced during my rookie year and last year as well. There is an excitement that I didn't feel before. Players are smiling a lot and seem eager to play. I think that a lot of the fans might be very surprised just how well we do this season."

The strong safety responsibilities will change dramatically in Lovie Smith's "Cover 2" scheme.

"He needs to be able to drop down in the box; he needs to be a fourth linebacker a lot of times, have that mentality," Smith said. "We're looking more at what he can do in underneath coverage and supporting the run, playing the run."

The description seems to fit Gray perfectly. At 6-foot, 212 pounds, Gray's frame is similar to that of physical safeties Smith has worked with in the past, while Green is more suited for cornerback at 6-foot, 195.

"John Lynch was a 215-pound guy, (Adam) Archuleta was a 215-pound guy," Smith said. "Both of them had a linebacker mentality, had that background in their career."


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