INDIANAPOLIS--Nothing's over until John Tait decides it is, to borrow loosely from John "Bluto" Blutarsky, surely an offensive lineman at heart.
General manager Jerry Angelo said Saturday afternoon that coach Lovie Smith and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand have spoken with Tait on more than one occasion in the hope of talking him out of retirement. The Bears know Tait, who informed them last month he planned to walk away from the game after 10 seasons and with one more year remaining on his contract, didn't enter into the decision lightly.
"John has said he's going to retire,'' Angelo said. "In all likelihood that's probably going to happen. But that's not a certainty yet until the paperwork is turned in. That door isn't 100 percent closed. We've got to look at that. We're talking to John St. Clair. We certainly like [St. Clair]. We've got to create some opportunities there for us. We'll just have to in positions where you potentially have a need let it play itself out. We'll see how things unfold."
The upshot of it is Angelo said it is possible the Bears draft offensive tackles in the first round of consecutive drafts for the first time in more than three decades.
*** If you didn't already know that Charles Tillman would not be making the transition from left cornerback to free safety, you do now. Smith shot so many holes in the notion you'd think he was a machine-gun toting gangster.
"You guys need to tell me something, just so I can learn,'' Smith said. "How you can take that corner, it's so hard finding a corner, and put him at free safety?
"He's our No. 1 corner. Charles Tillman is a cornerback for us.''
Switching Tillman to free safety wouldn't solve an issue, a longstanding one, in the secondary. It would only transfer the problem. The Bears would then have a gaping hole at cornerback.
Smith also said you would have to factor the health of Tillman's shoulders into any type of decision like that. Tillman will not be ready for the mandatory veteran minicamp in three weeks at Halas Hall.
*** Angelo said Smith wants Danieal Manning to remain at nickel back which will allow him to continue as the kickoff returner.
"I like what he was able to do at the nickel position,'' Smith said. "He made a lot of progress. That is a tough position to play. We put a lot of time into Danieal getting that down.''
*** Angelo didn't rule out re-signing veteran running back Kevin Jones, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Because he played for the minimum-salary benefit he cannot sign a contract with the Bears until Friday. But expect Garrett Wolfe to get the first shot at being the back who shares some of the load with Matt Forte.
*** Asked if there was a solution to the safety problem in free agency, Angelo started talking about Craig Steltz, the fourth-round pick from last year that the Bears hailed as being a "starting caliber'' player. The problem is Steltz is strictly a strong safety in the eyes of most and Kevin Payne is in that role.
"We have somebody to line up there,'' Angelo said. "We have Steltz, so to say it's a need is premature. We do have somebody. We like Craig. I thought he did a nice job when he did play last year. He did a very good job on special teams. Why do I bring special teams up? Because players that usually show on special teams, when their number's called usually play well too.
"Danieal, we put a lot of time into him last year at nickel and from what we hear in our meetings, Lovie would like to keep him there. But he's still counted as a safety. So we do have players there. Obviously Payne's there. In my number counts, we have three safeties. There are going to be more positions that we're going to have to look at this year in the draft and free agency and we'll just see what we can accomplish, if nothing else create better depth and/or competition if we can't get a for sure, frontline player so-to-speak."
*** Angelo didn't care for a question about Bob Babich's status on the coaching staff given the performance of the defense over the last two seasons and considering that Ron Rivera was effectively fired after Super Bowl XLIII.
"This isn't the time to get into that,'' Angelo said. "I'm looking where we're at now and moving forward. If you want to live in the past and talk about that, you could ask that question. This is not a time to address those things. We made decisions on players, we made decisions on coaches, we moved on. Is every decision we make a right decision? I can't say that. It's a tough business, but e very decision we make is in the best interest of the football team going forward. So anything we've done in the past was done in our best interest looking at it collectively from the organization and the football team."