Bears' coach Lovie Smith spoke to the media at the NFL combine on Friday. There was no major news to come out of his press conference but he addressed several topics.
Smith said he has not talked to quarterback Jay Cutler since the loss to the Packers in the NFC Championship game but assumes his injured knee is healing. He also reiterated previous statements when asked about Cutler's toughness.
"There's no question about Jay's toughness or anything like that," he said. "For guys to even challenge that or question that don't know what they're talking about, don't know him. He's as tough as any quarterback in the league."
On the two-year extension he signed that will keep him with the team through 2013: "I'm in position to be here and of course get that extension because of what the staff has done. They all did a great job. But we're all excited about this next step. Jerry [Angelo] and I worked together well, not just during our time here in Chicago but in Tampa also. We feel like we have a good combination going and we look forward to taking the next step."
Smith was asked if the team will focus on improving the offensive line during the draft and free agency.
"It's one of the areas we would like to improve, yes," he said. "I'm going to give you generic answers on that. We're trying to improve our entire ballclub. If we feel there's a player out there that can help us of course we'll look at him. That was an area where we looked to improve during the course of the season and I felt we did. We had a lot of different combinations that we used. [Offensive line coach] Mike [Tice} at least got the guys in a position that gave us the best chance to win. We're evaluating our offensive line like we're evaluating other positions."
The Titans requested permission to interview Tice for their offensive coordinator position. Smith explained why the Bears denied the request.
"As a general rule I would like to see our guys advance anytime they can," he said. "But there's a deadline a little bit there. It's a little late in the game. Mike was OK. It's not like we're keeping any secrets or anything. Mike's excited about being on our staff right now. The timing wasn't right for it right then. But you look at it. We had other coaches going out. [Secondary coach] Jon Hoke interviewed for the defensive coordinator position a little earlier in the year. We felt like it was a little late in the season and we felt we had to go with looking at what's best for the Chicago Bears."