Smith Pleased with Overall Progress

Wednesday marked the completion of the Bears off-season workouts and now players have a month break before reporting to Bourbonnais for training camp. Head coach Lovie Smith remains upbeat about the amount the team has been able to accomplish in four weeks.

"We're just excited about all of our team and it all coming together," Smith said.

The Bears were able to get players coming off injuries back on the field, while not adding any names to the list.

Having Rex Grossman participate in every practice over the past month is a step forward, but with just six career starts there are still questions to answer.

"I think I still have a lot to prove to everyone," Grossman said. "I'm glad I have their confidence (of my teammates) but there's still a lot to prove and I understand that and it's just a process that any quarterback goes through not having a lot of experience."

Acquisitions Muhsin Muhammad, Fred Miller and Cedric Benson have improved the overall talent level around Grossman. The next step is building chemistry on a unit that is projected to have at least new starters at five different positions. FB Bryan Johnson and TE Desmond Clark missed all of June, but are expected to be ready by the start of training camp.

"We're getting closer to being the type of offense that we would like to be," Smith said.

The defense has far less questions and expects to be among the best in the league. All eleven starters return from last year's squad and can rely on another season of experience in the system.

Getting a healthy MLB Brian Urlacher, S Mike Brown and DE Adewale Ogunleye on the field for the 2005 campaign could push the defense up the rankings. The trio missed a combined 25 games last year and all finished the season on Injured Reserve.

Aside from getting healthy, the top priority between now and the start of camp will be to sign Benson. Eugene Parker, who represents the fourth pick in the draft, negotiated the rookie contracts for Grossman and WR David Terrell.

"Cedric knows he's a big part of what we're going to do offensively and the way to get off to a good start is to be there at the start of training camp," Smith said. "He's been there for all of the mini-camps. He hasn't missed a thing and he likes being a part of this team and I expect him to be on time."

Along with Benson, the three remaining draft picks yet to sign are QB Kyle Orton, WR Airese Currie and LB Rodriguez Wilson.

Second round pick WR Mark Bradley agreed to a five-year contract on Tuesday and is the only player chosen on the first day of the draft to ink a deal.

"It was important just to get it out of the way so you can start focusing more on the field," Bradley said. "Now that I have it out of the way I can concentrate more of my job."

Roster Move
The Bears signed offensive lineman Anthony Oakley to a two-year contract Wednesday, while waiving wide receiver Jamin Elliott.

Oakley recently completed the 2005 NFL Europe season with the Frankfurt Galaxy. The 6-4, 310-pounder spent training camp with the Cleveland Browns last year after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky.

Elliott played three games over two seasons split between the active rosters and practice squads of the Bears and New England Patriots. The 5-11, 195-pounder entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by Chicago in 2002.


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