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Rick Scuteri // AP Photo

Mark Potash, Adam Jahns, and Sean Jensen live-tweet the Phil Emery press conference regarding the firing of coach Lovie Smith.

Here is audio of the press conference and below is the live-blog of the presser.

Lovie Smith reiterated that he has an offensive coordinator in Ron Turner when he was asked about the possibility of ousted Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis filling that role.

Neil Hayes reported today that Weis would have interest in the Bears' play-calling gig if it were to become available. As Mike Mulligan wrote last month when we shared the news that Mike Martz has told a league source he would like to work with Jay Cutler, that's what happens at this time of year. Coaches looking for work smell blood in the water and the rumor mill cranks up.

There's a good fit for Weis. His son Charlie Jr. could finish up high school in South Bend, Ind., next year. One of the first things a coordinator is going to look for is a quarterback, and the Bears have a former Pro Bowl performer in Jay Cutler. Weis certainly had success in New England with Tom Brady.

"You would like for me to comment on Charlie Weis, something that Charlie said?'' Smith said. "I can't comment on that. I don't know anything about that. We have an offensive coordinator in place right now. I can comment on that.''

Then, Smith was asked how Weis would do in a second tour in the league.

"No idea how he would do,'' he said. "He was a good coordinator back when he was in the NFL, that's about all can say.''

Smith declined to comment on the Martz report last month prior to the story coming out.

General manager Jerry Angelo said that the Bears have red flags now that they have lost six of seven games entering this afternoon's meeting with the St. Louis Rams.

But he's not panicking at this point, and vowed to fix the mess the 4-7 club has fallen into during a season that began with such huge expectations.

Speaking with WBBM play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak on the station's pregame show, Angelo addressed some of the issues plaguing the team. He was not asked about the status of coach Lovie Smith, who is 20-23 since losing Super Bowl XLI.

"We do have red flags,'' Angelo said in the interview. "Those flags were made by us. There will be some inventory like there is at the end of the year, there will be plenty enough time for that. Right now, I want to focus on the now, this afternoon, playing good football. We're paid to win. We have 16 games. We want to win each one of those games so we want to stay focused on the season."

"[Things] are exceptionally rough and we're all disappointed given the fact that we had high expectations. There is still a glimmer of hope and we'll always play on that as long as there is. We're in a poor state right now, obviously, we need a win badly. That doesn't ever lose our focus in terms of what we have to do now."

Asked what his message to fans would be, Angelo said not to lose hope.

"I have been in this league a long, long time. Believe me, I will never live without hope,'' he said. "There might be situations that look hopeless but it certainly is not that way internally. We will come out of this better for it. I promise you that. Sometimes things don't work out according to plan. Doesn't mean the plan was bad. The plan was solid. It just didn't work. We'll go back and we'll re-visit the things that didn't work, fix the things that didn't work, and when you do that you will be better for it.

"Can I sit here and tell you exactly what? I can't do that right now. There will be time to do it. I promise this to our fans, and I know this in my heart of hearts, we will be better through this ordeal. I do promise you that, and there will always be hope. It will not be false hope."

The Bears are making a move at the position they've changed more than any other under Lovie Smith.

No, Jay Cutler isn't headed to the bench for Caleb Hanie.

The Bears are going to do a safety dance. Again. Danieal Manning is headed to the bench this week against St. Louis and Kevin Payne will start in his place. Manning will probably return to his role as the nickel back, meaning Corey Graham will probably be the odd man out. Manning has had some issues in coverage recently. He was out of position on DeSean Jackson's long touchdown catch two weeks ago. He remains the most athletic member of the secondary, but it hasn't translated into lots of plays.

The move could be a creation of the Bears' desire to shut down the Rams' Steven Jackson, who enters second in the league in rushing. Jackson hasn't practiced for the last two days because of a back issue, but he's expected to play. His production has been terrific, especially when you consider the issues St. Louis (1-10) faces on offense. The Rams have trailed all season--they rarely play with the lead--and yet their passing offense ranks 22nd. Whether it's Marc Bulger or Kyle Boller, who will start this week, they are struggling to move the ball through the air. The speedy Donnie Avery is the only wide receiver who was on the roster at the start of the season, amazing turnover when you consider it.

Jarron Gilbert is ready to go.

That is what Bears general manager Jerry Angelo announced earlier today on the team's Web site.

The rookie third-round draft pick from San Jose State, who was the team's top pick after the Jay Cutler trade and after Angelo traded down and out of the second round, has been active for only two of the 11 games so far. He didn't get on the field in one of the two that he dressed for, but the team is confident he has made strides on the practice field.

"When we drafted Jarron Gilbert, we drafted the value of his position. We did not draft a need,'' Angelo said. "Because of that, he's having to wait his turn. There are [players] ahead of him. You normally dress seven defensive linemen, but we've been dressing eight, so it's hard to get him active. He's ready to go. I'm anxious to see him. The coaches feel he's ready to play and deserves to play. It's just a matter of numbers on game day."

The Bears held a high level meeting at Halas Hall last week after a report was made that the club had extended back channel feelers to Bill Cowher to gauge his interest in potentially coming on board in 2010. Eventually, the brass in the building decided the best response for the club to have was no response at all, so the organization has remained silent on the issue.

Someone has spoken up now. ESPN's John Clayton went the other way and said it wasn't accurate in an appearance on WMVP-1000 this afternoon.

"Literally, about two minutes ago I was just talking to someone about this in the Bill Cowher camp,'' Clayton said. "And that is 100 percent inaccurate. No reaching out to Bill Cowher and no reaching out to Bill Cowher representatives, friends or anything of that nature. And Bill has made it known that he doesn't want to affect any current coach, whether it is an interim coach or a head coach, who is under a contract until the end of the season because he wants to be true to all the coaches that are currently coaching.

"There is no contact or illusion of a contact. Nut I will tell you this factually, he is interested in two jobs: one being the Chicago Bears, and the other being the Houston Texans. Both would have to open for that to happen but he is interested. But in the end there hasn't happened anything that would give him any indication that he would be contacted."

The Bears will have to follow a stricter NFL policy regarding concussions before cornerback Charles Tillman can return to the practice field or consider playing in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.

Tillman was knocked out of Sunday's loss at Minnesota with what coach Lovie Smith has repeatedly called a "mild concussion.'' He did not practice today, and was seen driving out of the facility in the late morning.

Commissioner Roger Goodell notified teams today of an expanded return-to-play mandate for players who suffer concussions that takes effect immediately. The stricter guidelines was created by the league's medical committee on concussions in conjunction with the NFL Players Association.

The new statement reads:

"Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant. A critical element of managing concussions is candid reporting by players of their symptoms following an injury. Accordingly, players are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion."

The pressure is mounting on the Bears following their 36-10 loss at Minnesota on Sunday, and Lovie Smith knows the speculation that comes with the territory as his team sits at 4-7 and with little more than pride to play for the remainder of this season. I asked him during his press conference if he understands that scrutiny.

"I think I do. I realize that we haven't played as well,'' Smith said. "There were high hopes especially after the way we started and as far as why, there are a lot of reasons why, but we realize where we are and that's we are going to continue to look at what we're doing, which we do each week, we try to evaluate everything we're doing from scheme to calls we're making to you know just the players, we'll continue to do that and try to get a win. But yeah we realize exactly where we are."

It's going to be an interesting final five weeks to the season. The Bears have a game Sunday with St. Louis, one you would figure they would claim, but as poorly as the team has been playing of late, anything is possible. Surely, many factors are going to be weighed following the season, so I asked Smith if he believes what he did with the team from 2004 to 2006 still weighs significantly with management and ownership.

"Oh, I can talk a lot about this weekend," he said. "I am looking short term too. When you're in a situation like this, you don't look any further than that. All of your thoughts are occupied by trying to put a better product on the football field. That's about all I can talk about."

That's some dancing around the issue, but when a team has lost six of seven, the only thing the coach can do is look ahead at the next opponent and focus in. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher swerved out of that focus when he said some candid things about the team, pointing out that the Bears have completely changed their identity.

Bears coach Lovie Smith declined to comment when asked to comment specifically about reports of coaching changes at Halas Hall, including a Sun-Times story that Mike Martz would love to reunite with his former defensive coordinator to work with quarterback Jay Cutler.

Smith said that his full attention is on the Minnesota Vikings, and that when you're 4-6 in a season that began with such great expectations, these are the things that are going to happen.

"Martz would love to work with Jay Cutler,'' a source close to the former architect of the Greatest Show on Turf told the Sun-Times.

Martz reacted angrily to the report when reached this afternoon by the Sporting News.

"I've never had any discussion with anybody about it. Ever. And it's extremely unprofessional, so inappropriate. This is just coming out of nowhere. I don't know who makes this crap up, but somebody is making it up.

"It's just so wrong when people make stuff up like that. There are the kinds of things you despise as a coach."

"I still feel like we're in the mix. If we can correct a lot of things, a lot of the small things, really they're not small. They're turning into big things that we have to take care of.''

Those were the words of Bears coach Lovie Smith Sunday night after the Bears fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20 at Soldier Field, their fifth loss in the last six games and one that all but ends their postseason hopes. No, the Bears are not mathematically eliminated from anything, but there's no way anyone at Halas Hall can say with any level of confidence that this team can go on a run to finish out the season. Nope. Not the way things are going.

Using Smith's glass half-full approach that the Bears are "in the mix," let's set off to identify the small things that really aren't small any longer as we react to the loss.

1. Jay Cutler has gone from throwing passes to the other team to flat overthrowing his receivers. It was good to see him launch one pass out of the end zone when the play was covered up in the red zone (then again, earlier he tried hitting tight end Greg Olsen who was blanketed by your basic triple coverage) but Cutler missed long all game. He overshot Olsen, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox on throws that would have been sure touchdowns. The Knox pass was most deflating. It came with just less than four minutes remaining in the game, and would have been a go-ahead score. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner made the right call, Knox blew past cornerback Sheldon Brown and there was nothing but clear field ahead of him. Turner said they are throws Cutler has been hitting in practice. He throws a good deep ball. It's what we saw all during training camp. Have things become so bad that the Bears can't hit the open man deep?

2. What did we learn on Kahlil Bell's 72-yard run? Well, for starters it's apparent that Knox is a whole heck of a lot faster. The wide receiver showed great speed in getting downfield to throw a block that created extra yardage. The Bears have another running back who isn't a home run threat, but it was nice to see someone bust one long. What Bell's long run is going to do, though, is send fantasy players running to make a waiver claim and increase the questions for Matt Forte, who had another ho-hum effort, 34 yards on 14 rushes. Here are Forte's last six games:

NBC-5 WMAQ caught up with announcer Bob Costas today to speak with him about being turned down by the Bears for a story Sunday night on "Football Night in America.'' The team was asked to supply quarterback Jay Cutler, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo and was denied.

Costas and NBC will continue with plans to do a story on the quarterback and his struggles of late for the Bears leading into the network's broadcast of the game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here is a transcript of the interview supplied by NBC-5. We thank them for the heads up.

Q: Did you see the Sun-Times article today and what were your thoughts on it?

Bob Costas: Well, I'd rather that I and NBC not be the center of the story and I don't think that we are. And I don't think this is particularly a big deal. If let's say Jay Cutler had been removed as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith had refused to talk about a specific move or something comes up with the commissioner of the league won't address a certain issue, then I think you have reason for complaint. In this particular case, I certainly don't take it personally. It's obvious that they have decided that there is nothing that they can add to it. What else can they say? The team has been playing poorly. Cutler had an especially bad game last time out. There isn't that much more that can be said about that, so they've decided that anything that they say just adds to the noise and they'll just out there and play on Sunday and let that be their answer. So, I understand. I don't have any particular problem with it.

Q: Did it bother you that the Sun-Times seemed to put you out in front of the story?

BC: I certainly don't take it personally. I think the answer would've been the same if it was Monday Night Football or if the request had been made by CBS or by FOX or whomever made the request. It's just the particular point in the Bears' season. I don't know Jay Cutler that well, but I've talked with him before and interviewed him a couple of times, seems like a nice young guy. I don't have any problem with him whatsoever and I'm sure at a different juncture either this season or next season, we'll sit down and talk again when the circumstances are different.

Q: Does it make you uncomfortable to be part of the story? I know broadcasters like to describe the story, not actually be a part of it.

BC: Yeah, you'd prefer not to be, but occasionally it happens because you can't control how other people decide to view it, but I don't think it's a terribly big deal.

Lovie Smith says the Bears just want to get to Sunday night's game with the Philadelphia Eagles, and that they're ready to circle the wagons after fulfilling media obligations Friday following practice. (Or as Alonzo Spellman famously once said, "circle the horses.")

The Sun-Times reported today that Smith, general manager Jerry Angelo and quarterback Jay Cutler will not be made available for NBC's "Football Night in America'' show, the pregame program that leads into the game with the Eagles.

"I'm trying to figure out where that all came from,'' Smith said. "We try to do whatever we can for anyone that's coming in. We've played quite a few Sunday night games. There's not a whole lot more to talk about. We're making our players available right up until game time. But as far as participating an awful lot right now it's kind of time for us to play football. We try to do as many interviews as we can during game week but once you get a little bit closer to it you're kind of reeling things in a little bit.''

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