Smith Positive Despite 7-9 Record

Fans of the Chicago Bears have come to know what to expect from head coach Lovie Smith at his press conferences: very little. Always a glass-half-full guy, Smith still believes his team isn't far away from being a title contender once again. He reiterated that sentiment Thursday at the NFL Combine.

On the Bernard Berrian situation and whether he'll be re-signed:
"It's very important. ... We drafted Bernard. We've seen him grow as a person and, of course, as a football player. He's a very good football player. He's a [No.] 1 receiver. So it's important. Hopefully we can find a way to keep him in Chicago."

On the state of the quarterback position as of right now:
"Well, right now, just like most of our ballclub, we weren't happy with everything that happened this past year. But right now, Rex Grossman is an unrestricted free agent that's out there. We of course would like for him to come back along, with our two other quarterbacks we have right now. Every position, we're trying to improve right now. That's where we are at the quarterback position and, again, hopefully we can stabilize it a little bit more coming up."

On if he feels the Super Bowl window is still open for this coming season:
"Well, we're definitely not rebuilding. As far as [a] Super Bowl window, it's a long time ago it seemed like that we played in the Super Bowl, but we like the core of our team still. I feel like we're close. It's a fine line between winning and losing. This past season, it went the other way for us. The Super Bowl champion New York Giants had an excellent year. We were right in it with them right up until the end, so we feel like we're close. We're gonna make a few changes, which you do normally, and go from there."

On if there are more holes to fill this season than he had last season:
"Again, that's a long time ago thinking about what we talked about then. I know we do have a few things we need to get taken care of right now, though. But I feel like the good part, I guess, about not being in the playoffs is you get a chance to start the process a little bit quicker, which we have been able to do. It's been a while. We missed the last couple of Senior Bowls. We were down there watching them this year. So we have some holes, but we feel like we're making progress filling them."

On if he's prepared to replace Lance Briggs at linebacker next year:
"Well, just like I said with Bernard. My entire time in Chicago, I've been with Lance Briggs. He's been an All-Pro player for us. How many teams would like to see an All-Pro go somewhere else? So I'm optimistic. My glass is half-full always, so hopefully that will be the case. I know we've made statements, and we realize when you have a player out there like Lance, a lot of teams want him. We're one of them that do."

On if he sees Mike Brown in the defensive backfield once again:
"We sure do. Mike's another part of the core. Even though he's missed a lot of games, Mike means quit a bit. I'm a big Mike Brown fan, always have been, and yes, we would definitely like to have Mike back with us."

On if Ruben Brown might come back for another season after surgery:
"Ruben Brown has meant a lot to our ballclub. A veteran player at the latter part of his career, as he came to us. He did a lot for us, but we're going to go in a different direction with Ruben. We appreciate everything he's done for us, but we are going in a different direction with our offensive line."

On what his receiving corps would look like if Berrian departs in free agency:
"Whenever you go in a different direction from a player like Muhsin Muhammad, you have to feel pretty good about some other players that you have, and that's the case with us. Mark Bradley has been very productive when given an opportunity to play. From his rookie year on, he's fought injuries and things like that. But we fell real good about the direction he's going. Devin Hester can be a [No.] 1 receiver in the league. I truly believe that. So we're excited about the steps he took this past season and the direction he's going also. Rashied Davis, good football player. Mike Hass, another good football player. So we feel good about some of our younger receivers. They haven't come on the scene yet, but we think a few of them can."

On John Tait moving back to his natural spot at right tackle with Fred Miller gone:
"I don't know if I'd say natural home. Of course, he's played both of them. That's an option that we have, and we'll keep all of our options open right now. The direction we go with the other position will dictate what happens with John."

On if Cedric Benson is still his No. 1 running back on the depth chart:
"Right now, it would be hard for me to say many guys are No. 1 at their position. You open everything up. I would like for all of our players to think that they're No. 1 coming in. Again, Cedric, we know what he was able to do. Adrian Peterson was productive and finished the season out strong, and I still think Garrett Wolfe has a bright future ahead of him."

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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