Lovie Smith is always hard to read because, more than most coaches who don't want to give anything away, he tries to throw you off the trail But he hinted at lineup or rotation changes this week as the Bears face a must-win game against the 1-4 Vikings at Soldier Field.
''There's always a chance,'' Smith said when asked about personnel changes. ''We evaluate the performance from the last game. There are some things we didn't like form the last game. The coaching staff has to do a better job. Starting with us.
''From there it's all about performance on the football field. We're not pleased with some of the performances we've gotten. I never talk about changes we're going to make, before we hit the practice field and talk to the guys. But it's always a chance of that.''
The most likely change is at right tackle, where Frank Omiyale started but was benched in the second half for the second game in a row Monday night against the Lions. Lance Louis moved from right guard to tackle in the fourth quarter and was much more effective at keeping Lions defensive end Cliff Avril off Jay Cutler's back.
Edwin Williams replaced Louis at guard. It's likely either Williams or Chris Spencer will start at right guard, with Louis at right tackle against the Vikings, who are tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 16.
''Frank didn't play as well as he needs to. He'll tell you he needs to We say that,'' Smith said. ''[There are] some things we can do to help him out a little bit more, too. But it's about performance and we're not satisfied with the performance. You do look at other options. We looked at other options in the game. We'll see how it goes this week.''
The Bears also need better production on their defensive line and at safety. Smith hinted that rookie defensive tackle Stephen Paea, a second-round draft pick who has been inactive for all five regular-season games, could get a chance soon.
Smith said Paea has been buried on the depth charge because ''we have other players.'' But with Matt Toeaina suffering a sprained knee against the Lions and neither Henry Melton, Anthony Adams or Amobi Okoye distinguishing himself, Paea might get an opportunity whether he's ready or not.
Smith refuted the notion that Paea has been a bust.
''We have other players,'' he said. ''And there's a rotation you go through. Sometimes it's hard to get an opportunity.
''Stephen just has to continue to do what he's been doing -- going to work, practice and improving. He'll get his opportunity. We're still as high on him as we've been. It's just that there are other guys ... there have been other guys before him. Keep watching.''
The Bears promoted rookie safety Anthony Walters from the practice squad to the active roster, but that appears to be a special teams move right now. Rookie Chris Conte, a third-round draft pick, looks like the next in line for playing time at safety. He played against the Saints in Week 2 when both Chris Harris and Major Wright were injured.
''We have a big challenge ahead of us this week,'' Smith said. ''Chris Conte is good football player. Hasn't really gotten an opportunity. So who knows?''
The Bears' biggest upgrades are most likely to come from getting injured players back on the field -- particularly right tackle Gabe Carimi (partially dislocated kneecap) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (chest bruise). Carimi has missed the last three games and likely will miss at least two more. Bennett also has missed the last three games. Smith said he's hoping Bennett can practice as early as later this week. But general manager Jerry Angelo indicated prior to the Lions game that it likely will be a few more weeks before Bennett returns.