Smith Exudes Confidence in Team as Players Report

BOURBONNAIS _ Neither the heat nor the absence of his top draft pick could ruin the optimism of Bears coach Lovie Smith when players reported for training camp Saturday.

"I know we have a good football team and I can't wait to see it all come together," Smith said while players filed into their dorm at Olivet Nazarene University.

First-round draft pick Cedric Benson and fourth-rounder Kyle Orton remained unsigned Saturday evening.

Smith shrugged off Benson's absence as a minor obstacle.

"Eventually he'll get in camp and we'll put him in and get him ready once that happens," Smith said. "But the rest of our team is here. We're excited about them."

Smith pointed out a few areas Benson might fall behind in when he reports. During the team's organized team activities in June and in mini-camp, Benson gained some exposure to the offense, but it's different with live hitting.

"He hasn't had a training camp with us," Smith said. "We've put in a big part of our offense, but we haven't hit any. He needs to get into football shape, and he'll be able to do that.

"We're in (camp) earlier than everyone else, so eventually we'll get the guys in and we'll start coaching them then."

Smith's was even less concerned about the high heat that is expected to greet players at Sunday's first practice (3 p.m.).

Forecasts call for 100 degrees today. Nevertheless, Smith said the 3 p.m. practice time will not be pushed back or moved up to take advantage of cooler temperatures.

"The heat ... it's warming up a little bit," Smith said. "I've had quite a few comments about the heat right now. I'm from Texas. So (the heat) is a part of what I know and I know that it will be hotter here.

"Everything that we've done to this point has been to be ready for these type of days, from (new conditioning coach) Rusty Jones' initial program of teaching us more about hydration and nutrition and all of that. We feel like we have a plan in place in case it really does get hot. But we don't see a real problem with that. Our team is in shape and I feel like we're ready to meet the challenge and dealing with the weather is just a part of it."

Last year the Bears had eight two-a-days and only twice went under the lights.

"Hot weather is just a part of camp," guard Ruben Brown said.

Smith wouldn't even acknowledge the higher level of expectation this season after what is normally a "honeymoon" first year.

"Honeymoon? I don't feel like I had a honeymoon at all," he said. "We tried to win last year and we didn't.

"When we played bad, people let us know it. When we played well they did. I think they'll do the same thing this year. Hopefully we'll have more wins where we can talk more on those terms."

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