Mike Martz continues to rave about Jay Cutler. He said backup Caleb Hanie has "unusual skills" and was impressed by sixth-round pick Dan LeFevour during a three-day minicamp that concluded on Sunday at Halas Hall.
But the first-year offensive coordinator said the Bears could still use a veteran backup.
"It makes you a little nervous, doesn't it?" Martz said when asked about the possibility of an injury sidelining Cutler. "Caleb is going to be a good player but you really don't know. ... Caleb will be all right. [But] it gives you that insurance. It would make us all feel a little easier with a veteran because you just never know."
Martz used his former Super Bowl-winning quarterback from St. Louis as an example. Kurt Warner didn't have much NFL experience when he was pressed into action by the Rams. But he had played in the Arena League and in NFL Europe, which gave Martz an idea of how he would perform with defenders zeroing in on him.
"The only thing we don't know is how well he responds under pressure," Martz said of Hanie. "Can he take this information and see things and react quickly? Sometimes that takes time. He needs experience. We'll see as much of Caleb as we can to get a feel for where he is."
The Bears opted not to sign a veteran quarterback last season and Cutler was able to start all 16 games. If the Bears were going to sign a veteran heading into 2010, it could be beneficial to sign a player familiar with Martz's system. Marc Bulger, who was cut the Rams last month, is one possibility.
"It would always help, that's for sure," Martz said when asked if he would prefer a quarterback he has worked with before. "It doesn't have to be. A good player is a good player. It's just harder for them to learn, basically. A veteran has been through several systems, usually, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Jon Kitna had been through a bunch of systems. It would give him a leg up and make it easier, especially if he joins us late, but a good player is a good player and we'll make it work."
As for LeFevour, Martz said he overloaded the rookie with information and details on fundamentals hoping he will be ready to digest even more during a full-squad minicamp later this month.
"Whatever you did in the past has no bearing on today," Martz said of rookies in general. "That's the biggest difference.They've got to learn a whole new offense and a different way of looking at things. Everything is different no matter what your background was or how successful you were. He's come here obviously with a completely open mind. He's terrific. He's very easy to coach. He's a sponge. He's trying to do things the right way but he's a long way away."
While Martz said he wouldn't mind if general manager Jerry Angelo added veteran depth at quarterback he's more than satisfied with the receiving corps as is.
"Our receiving corps will be a strength of this team," he said. "That's in granite. I can promise that. There's not many things I'm emphatic about but that's going to be a strength of this football team. It's a terrific group, it really is."
Martz rarely talks to the media without hearing the obligatory question about how tight end Greg Olsen will fit into his system. He gave what is becoming his stock answer.
"When you have a guy like Greg, he has to get grounded in the running game, obviously," he said. "But there are some things we'll do with him we've never done before. It's exciting for me as a coach [because I] get to explore some different avenues. Plus, you can have him on the field as kind of a third receiver on first down and do those kinds of things. It's unlimited.
"But before you get there you have to go back to the basics of getting your hand on the ground and coming off the ball and sustaining a block. If a tight end can't do that than his value is [diminished]. He can certainly do that. He's proven he can do that. We have to get him involved in that. It's easy to get him involved in the passing game. He's certainly capable of putting his hand on the ground and being a good blocker."
As or the minicamp itself, Lovie Smith always tells players before the rookie minicamp how Brandon McGowan and Cameron Worrell made the best of their tryouts and carved out careers for themselves in the NFL.
"When you come here you don't want to blend in," Smith said after the 54 players who participated were dismissed. "You want to do things that make coaches take notice and we had a few do that."
Smith wouldn't name names, but said some of the cornerbacks who participated might have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot.
As for the draft picks, Smith said third-round choice Major Wright, a safety, and fourth rounder Corey Wootton, defensive end, "performed about the way we thought they would." He also said he was impressed with LeFevour.