When Lovie Smith talked about taking a look at everything when he evaluated this past season, the offseason schedule was included.
Smith has turned around the Bears' offseason and minicamp is coming, just around the corner. The team announced that veteran minicamp will be held from March 17-19. That means it begins five weeks from today. Typically, it has been held in June, near the end of the offseason program.
That will allow the club to do a few things. First, it gives Smith and the coaching staff an opportunity to take a look at any free agents signed before then. The shopping season begins on Feb. 27. Second, if there are any lingering questions heading toward the draft, maybe some answers will come in minicamp. Third, it will allow defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and secondary coach Jon Hoke to familiarize themselves with their players before the voluntary offseason program begins in April.
OTA's are held in May and June. Rookie minicamp is expected to be the weekend after the April 25-26 draft.
While it's unlikely there will be any contract suspense this time around, an early minicamp, which is mandatory, will eliminate that. Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs had made threats during the spring about not reporting the past two years as they staged contract protests. Neither missed time at minicamp.
The early date could prevent or reduce the participation of cornerback Charles Tillman, who underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery last month.