It's quiet here at Bears' camp this morning. Cool, spitting rain. First practice isn't until 3 p.m. I know some of you prefer to read stories here, so here's a copy of the piece I wrote for Friday's editions. Also be sure to check out Sean Jensen's piece on Devin Hester. It's very insightful.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- It's unavoidable, even if some players wish it wasn't. It's the biggest question looming over Olivet Nazarene University as the Bears begin training camp, even if the person it directly involves would rather talk about his optimism for the coming season instead of what could happen if that optimism proves blind.
Will this season be Lovie's last stand?
It was the question on many minds as players reported to training camp on a breezy summer afternoon even if the answer will likely not reveal itself until deepest, darkest winter.
''Lovie is one of the best coaches I've been around, and I know that everyone on this team has a great amount of respect for him, as he does for us,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said. ''He treats us well. I know that some of the guys who have been here longer than me definitely have a lot of ties with him and want to go out there for him and play well. You never know what's going to happen this year, if we don't go out and perform, if Lovie is to stay or not. So, that's definitely a question in the back of everyone else's mind. But we can't worry about it.
''We have to play hard, and if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.''
Ted Phillips said changes could be made if the team doesn't meet expectations. What the team president's expectations are remains to be seen.
The playoffs would appear to be a reasonable measuring stick, although injuries could play a role in Smith's future, as could the possibility of labor unrest jeopardizing the 2011 season.
''I feel the same pressure every year, the pressure to win the Super Bowl, that's what we feel right now,'' Smith said. ''The pressure to put the best team we can on the field the first game. Pressure to have a good practice every day. No more than that. But that's enough right there.''
How quickly players not only learn but begin to successfully execute new offensive coordinator Mike Martz's schemes will play a big role in how prepared the team is to start the season and therefore will be a good indicator of how they may fare when the season starts.
It will take time for it to become second nature. Mistakes will be made, interceptions thrown, protections blown. What's most important is those growing pains occur in camp and not once the regular season begins.
''We've got to get as much done as possible,'' Cutler said. ''I've got to take as many reps as I possibly can, with this group, and this offense, because that's what it's about. It's about seeing things. It's just repetition, and seeing it over and over again until you feel comfortable with it.''
Defensively, it's about playing together, with one unit complementing the next. It's also about playing with the energy and ferocity that was once the trademark of Smith's defenses but has been mostly missing since 2006.
''Every day everybody has to get better,'' defensive lineman Israel Idonije said. ''Just trusting the guy next to you. We put the system in. Guys know the system. Everybody knows what they're supposed to do. It comes down to getting that energy and watching everybody run around and play at a high level. I want to see 11 guys to the ball every snap, a real high level of play and consistency.''
If the Bears can accomplish those primary goals during camp, who knows what they might achieve during the regular season.
If not, expect Lovie's job security to be a seasonlong story line, even if coaches and players don't like it.
''When you have a great coach like that, you put everything on the line,'' Tommie Harris said. ''We've been an injury-stricken team for the last couple years since the Super Bowl. This is our turn to turn things around. I'm not much about words these days. It's all about actions. That's what I'm looking forward to.''