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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.

Ron Turner heard a little something about it, and talked to Brian Urlacher on Tuesday, but can't comment on the remarks by the middle linebacker that the Bears have lost their identity on offense. Would you have expected much different?

"I hate the way our identity has changed,'' Urlacher told Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports. "We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we'd rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win. Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that's the truth."

Urlacher made some other comments to Silver, like questioning a run call in the fourth quarter when the Bears were being lambasted at Minnesota. There's certainly a lot of truth in what he said, but airing it in a public fashion with the Bears 4-7 and having lost six of their last seven games only makes it appear, at least from the outside looking in, that things are coming apart at Halas Hall.

"I can't comment on that because I didn't see. I heard that he said something, I haven't seen it, I haven't read it, I'm not exactly sure what he said,'' said Turner. "I talked to Brian yesterday. I think he's got a lot of confidence in us, he's a team guy and again whatever he said, he said, but yeah, do we want to run the ball more? Yeah, there's no question about it, we want to run the ball more and better, and I have to give our guys a chance to do that, and sometimes the game dictates what you do and where you go, and that's kind of been the case this year a little bit."

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."

Running back Garrett Wolfe is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a lacerated kidney.

Wolfe was hospitalized for three nights following the Arizona game on Nov. 8, and while the hope was that he would be able to return before the end of the season, that's not a possibility. Wolfe is expected to make a complete return, though, and general manager Jerry Angelo expressed a desire to see him receive more opportunities last week.

"He's a great kid and it's unfortunate,'' Angelo said. ``I was hoping he would start integrating more into the offense and [offensive coordinator] Ron [Turner] was using him more in practices, and he's done a good job on special teams. I wanted to see him take another step as a runner.''

The Holy Cross and Northern Illinois product had 22 carries for 120 yards this season, ranking him second behind Matt Forte. He caught two passes for 12 yards, but his most prominent role was on special teams. He's tied for third with nine tackles, eight of which are solos.

The two interceptions by Jay Cutler in the red zone on Thursday at San Francisco made the bad Bears' red zone offense even worse.

They're now 13-for-30 scoring touchdowns in red zone trips (43.3 percent) and 5-for-30 throwing interceptions in red zone trips (16.7 percent).

Conversely, opponents have scored touchdowns on 21-of-30 red zone opportunities (70 percent) and the Bears have yet to get a takeaway in the red zone.

But the most compelling numbers of all come from Mike Klis of the Denver Post. He sent some research my way on Friday, evidence that the Bears need to do something in working with Cutler in the red zone.

Red zone interceptions

(Since Week 13 of 2008)

1. Jay Cutler, DEN-BEARS, 14 games, 8 INT

2. Marc Bulger, STL, 10 games, 3 INT
2. Jake Delhomme, CAR, 13 games, 3 INT

4. Drew Brees, NO, 13 games, 2 INT
4. David Garrard, JAC, 12 games, 2 INT
4. Josh Johnson, TB, 3 games, 2 INT
4. Matt Ryan, ATL, 14 games, 2 INT
4. Kurt Warner, ARI, 15 games, 2 INT

If the Bears are going to cut back the offensive playbook for Sunday's game vs. the Arizona Cardinals, we'll have to wait until after practice to get that word from offensive coordinator Ron Turner.

It was Turner, visibly upset with a lousy offensive showing following the 30-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns, who suggested that could be coming. The Bears rushed for 170 yards in the game but only because Garrett Wolfe scampered 36 yards down the left sideline in garbage time, and it was still short of the average being allowed by the last-ranked Browns defense.

The Bears were a woeful 2-for-7 in the red zone, although you can eliminate one of the opportunities as it came after Wolfe's long run.

"I don't know if we're going to exactly cut back on anything,'' Cutler said before practice, which will be starting momentarily. "We've just got to execute better. The guys know the plays. They know what they're supposed to do. We've just got to do it.''

The red zone remains a hot topic as the Bears are now tied for 25th, struggle that has prevented them from being one of the top scoring teams in the league because they're ranked seventh in red zone opportunities.

"We could do a lot of things better [in the red zone],'' Cutler said. "The players, we've got to execute, we've got to draw some stuff up and maybe attack them in a different way. But we're doing good stuff. We're having opportunities down there.

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The 2009 NFL schedule was released April 14, 12 days after the Bears completed their trade with the Denver Broncos to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler, a move that sparked tremendous expectations for the team.

The season opener at Green Bay followed by the home opener this afternoon with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers looked like a formidable start for all those not sipping the Kool Aid. Now, after a rough loss at Lambeau Field that has the Bears making four changes in the starting lineup on defense, two necessitated by injuries, the Bears know how important it is to avoid an 0-2 start. A loss to the Steelers could put the Bears two behind the Packers and fellow NFC North foe Minnesota. Green Bay hosts Cincinnati (0-1) and the Vikings, which also won their opener, are at Detroit (0-1) where the Lions will try to avoid their 19th straight defeat.

The statistics are daunting as well. Three of the 10 teams that started 0-2 last season--Miami, Minnesota and San Diego--reached the playoffs. But that kind of success is rare. Since 2000, nine of the 78 teams that started 0-2 reached the postseason (11.5 percent). Since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, 30 teams that have started 0-2 made the playoffs, including three Super Bowl winners (1993 Dallas, 2001 New England and 2007 New York Giants). That's one a year. Finally, the Bears, the cornerstone franchise of the league, have never made the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Add in the fact that next week's game is at Seattle where the Bears are 1-4 all-time with their last win coming in 1976, the first year of existence for the expansion Seahawks, and this game takes on an added significance if you believe in looking ahead.

Enough with the numbers. Let's get to it. What are keys for the Bears to be successful?

1. The Steelers have been getting some heat for some time. Why don't they run the football more? What happened to the fullback? The fact is, Bruce Arians runs a passing offense that suits his personnel. But after failing to generate any kind of ground game in the opener, the Steelers are going to try to establish success early vs. the Bears. They flat ran over them the last time the teams played in 2005. That was a different offensive line with a different back running behind it in Jerome Bettis. This line outweighs the Bears' front by an average of 47 pounds. The Bears have to stop the run because if Pittsburgh is two-dimensional, Ben Roethlisberger will be very difficult to stop.

2. Be like Hunter. It will be interesting to see if there are subtle differences in the scheme with Hunter Hillenmeyer replacing Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. He knows he can't try to be like Brian. He's not that player. I detailed here for the National Football Post how the change could affect the Bears when it comes to the blitz. The good news for the Bears is Hillenmeyer is probably a better middle linebacker than he is a strong-side linebacker, the position he started at for most of four seasons. The blitz will be key because the Steelers use a spread attack that forces the linemen to play in space. There will be opportunities to pressure Roethlisberger.

3. Safety dance. Lovie Smith was itching to get Danieal Manning in at free safety before training camp started. A pulled hamstring delayed that move. Now, Manning is in position. It's the 18th change in starting free safeties since Smith came on board in 2004. There have been 15 changes at strong safety. Hey, the Bears finally found a position to switch more often than starting quarterback. There is a chart of all the turnover during Smith's era here. Manning needs to curtail some of the glaring assignment errors that have marked his time at the position in the past. The wide open touchdown by Andre Johnson in the season finale last year at Houston comes to mind. The issue here is the team didn't use him at safety once during the offseason. He missed significant time in training camp with a pulled hamstring and he'll be going off classroom instruction more than anything else.

Either I missed the story online that is in Saturday's print edition, or somewhere it got lost in the shuffle on the World Wide Web. So here is the unedited version of the story that is or was to be printed in Saturday's paper:

The Bears are going to have to evaluate one of the first goals of their offseason after discovering Friday running back Kevin Jones will miss the season with a torn ligament in his left ankle.

Jones, who they were featuring Thursday against Cleveland at Soldier Field to get a little extra work in before the regular season begins, jumped into the air along the sideline and when he landed on his left foot it buckled. An MRI revealed the damage and he will undergo surgery next week. Rehabilitation is expected to take 10 months, but Jones proved he was a quick healer when he came back from a torn ACL in his right knee last summer.

While he was a luxury addition last year, Jones was headed for an expanded role as Matt Forte's primary backup when he returned with a $3.5 million, two-year contract. Adrian Peterson might have been on the bubble to make the club and now he's a lock for the 53-man roster when it's officially announced later today along with Garrett Wolfe. The Bears could seek a free agent but word around the league was they are content to roll with three backs for now.

``We were anxious to give him a lot of carries and see where he was,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``I feel bad for him. He's had a good training camp and I know he was looking forward to getting a chance to make some plays and was excited about playing. You hate to see it.''

The question is whether or not Forte will get off the field. He rarely did last season, participating in 84 percent of the club's offensive snaps, the highest figure for a back in the league. Forte was third in the NFL with 316 rushes, and when you add in 63 receptions, he had 379 touches, most for the Bears since Walter Payton had 434 in 1984. Turner talked on multiple occasions last season about working in others, and the danger now is it will be all talk again. Forte was dogged by a toe injury late last season and the workload wore on him a little bit on his way to setting a rookie franchise record with 1,238 yards.

``It's tough,'' Forte said. ``A.P. has been playing, this is his eighth year, he knows what he's doing too. We've got Garrett too. We don't have any issues with that. We're real confident with both of them getting in the game.''

The Bears' eighth summer at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., is going to be like never before starting Friday with the arrival of the Jay Cutler Tour.

What if they added Michael Vick to the mix?

That might just turn the campus upside down for a few weeks. My colleague Mike Mulligan explores just that issue in today's edition of the Sun-Times. He points out that if general manager Jerry Angelo was truly fixated with the quarterback position, then is it enough to add Cutler? Does he really want Caleb Hanie or Brett Basanez one snap away from being thrust into the spotlight? It's a question that teams have to be asking themselves everywhere this week. What can Vick do for us?

"There are people who never will forgive Vick and protesters who are sure to follow him to whatever NFL city he eventually lands,'' Mulligan writes. "Why would the Bears or any NFL team open itself up to such scrutiny? Cynical as it sounds, in the Bears' case, the scrutiny would help. It would be a welcome diversion to Jay Cutler fever, offer a storyline to pursue, another name to acknowledge, a different circus to follow."

From a football standpoint, the question with Vick is where is his talent level at after sitting out for two seasons and how quickly could he learn an offense to be effective, even if it was in just a part-time hybrid Wildcat role? As part of his conditional return to the game, commissioner Roger Goodell has cleared him to participate in training camp, play in the final two weeks of the preseason and participate in all team activities with the exception of games. Goodell will consider a full reinstatement by Week 6 at the latest. That means Vick could be on the playing field before even then if all goes well.

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Continuing with our position-by-position breakdowns as we close in on being a week away from the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we focus on the tight ends.

Projected starter: Desmond Clark, 6-3, 249, 11th season, Wake Forest OR Greg Olsen, 6-5, 255, 3rd season, Miami

Others

Kellen Davis 6-7, 262, 2nd season, Michigan State
Michael Gaines 6-2, 267, 6th season, Central Florida
Fontel Mines 6-4, 244, 1st season, Virginia

Projected depth chart

Clark or Olsen, Gaines, Davis

2009 salary cap numbers

Desmond Clark $2,173,946
Kellen Davis $432,188
Michael Gaines $1,162,600
Fontel Mines $315,200
Greg Olsen $1,501,450

Number of tight ends on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 3

Projected number of tight ends on 2009 roster at start of the season: 3 or 4

The skinny: Olsen has been Jay Cutler's unofficial sightseeing partner in his introduction to Chicago and he might just become his best friend on the field. The former first-round draft pick was second behind only running back Matt Forte on the team in receptions and led the club with five touchdown catches, scoring three of them in the final four weeks of the year when he had 20 of his 54 catches. That kind of production down the stretch--five grabs a game--is closer to what the Bears have in mind for this season. His 54 catches in 2008 ranked 10th among tight ends in the league and to join the elite at the position he'll need to add 20. He's also going to have to improve on his yards per catch. Of the 10 tight ends with more grabs than Olsen, eight had a greater YPC than his of 10.6. The only players below Olsen were Washington's Chris Cooley (83 catches, 10.2 YPC) and Tennessee's Bo Scaife (58 catches, 9.7 YPC). If you recall, Scaife caught 10 passes vs. the Bears on Nov. 9.

But Olsen is hardly the only part of the show. Clark made 16 starts last season while Olsen had seven, all coming when the offense opened in a double tight end formation. Clark is a superior run blocker and that fact alone may keep him in the starting lineup. He remains a productive outlet receiver but isn't going to stretch the defense and create the kind of matchup problems that Olsen presents vs. linebackers and defensive backs. That is what becomes interesting, how do teams choose to cover Olsen? We broke down playing time at the position earlier in the offseason and even though Clark was the full-time starter it didn't make anything more than a marginal difference. He was on the field 78.16 percent of the time compared to 76.68 for Olsen.

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Getting back to our position-by-position breakdowns as we move closer to the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we move to the offensive line.

Projected starters: LT Orlando Pace, 6-7, 325, 13th season, Ohio State; LG Frank Omiyale, 6-4, 315, 5th season, Tennessee Tech; C Olin Kreutz, 6-2, 292, 12th season, Washington; RG Roberto Garza, 6-2, 310, 9th season, Texas A&M-Kingsville; RT Chris Williams, 6-6, 315, 2nd season, Vanderbilt.

Others

Johan Asiata, 6-4, 300, Rookie, UNLV
Cody Balogh, 6-6, 303, 1st season, Montana
Josh Beekman, 6-2, 310, 3rd season, Boston College
Dan Buenning, 6-4, 300, 5th season, Wisconsin
Dennis Conley, 6-2, 300, Rookie, Hampton
Lance Louis, 6-3, 305, Rookie, San Diego State
Tyler Reed, 6-5, 305, 1st season, Penn State
Kevin Shaffer, 6-5, 318, 8th season, Tulsa

Projected depth chart

LT: Pace, Shaffer
LG: Omiyale, Beekman
C: Kreutz, Beekman or Buenning
RG: Garza, Beekman
RT: Williams, Shaffer

2009 salary cap numbers

Johan Asiata $311,666
Cody Balogh $315,200
Josh Beekman $563,325
Dan Buenning $905,200
Dennis Conley $311,000
Roberto Garza $1,565,000
Olin Kreutz $4,133,333
Lance Louis $320,495
Frank Omiyale $4,950,000
Orlando Pace $5,333,333
Tyler Reed $317,280
Kevin Shaffer $2,383,333
Chris Williams $2,149,700

Number of offensive linemen on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 9

Projected number of offensive linemen on 2009 roster at start of the season: 8

The skinny: The Bears are reshaping their offensive line for the second consecutive year after using the same five (Tait-Brown-Kreutz-Garza-Miller) for the three previous seasons. They're set to open with their third left tackle, Pace, and third right tackle, Williams, in as many seasons. Nothing is official but Omiyale, the newcomer in free agency, is expected to supplant Beekman at left guard giving the front a new look at 60 percent of the positions. Line coach Harry Hiestand has done a credible job with what he's been given, which for most of his tenure has been a veteran group with a handful of castoffs from other cities. Hiestand didn't break stride last season when Williams was lost on the second day of training camp, forcing him to play John St. Clair at left tackle when the plan was for the veteran to be at left guard. Now, general manager Jerry Angelo is hopeful that his medical risk will pan out in a big way.

Ultimately, right tackle is not where the club projects Williams, the first-round draft pick from 2008, to be. But the hope is the team can squeeze a couple of Ruben Brown-type years out of Pace. He missed 25 games over the last three seasons in St. Louis, but Pace started 14 games last season. One NFC scout said he still looks solid as a pass blocker and the issue for the former No. 1 overall pick is run blocking. Pace was in good condition during the offseason program and it could be that a change of scenery and escaping a struggling franchise will reinvigorate him. The Bears have covered themselves in the event that injuries happen as they have Shaffer in a swing tackle role, not to mention Omiyale, who can play outside. That type of flexibility on the line will be an asset and there is little doubt right now the team will go with eight linemen to open the season. That was the plan last year until Williams had back surgery in August. In choosing to keep him on the 53-man roster, the Bears forced themselves to keep a ninth lineman. Omiyale should provide a little more bulk inside in replacing Beekman, and that was one of the stated goals early in the offseason. Kreutz remains the anchor of the group and with the Bears certain to face fewer eight-man fronts with Jay Cutler at quarterback, it will be interesting to see if the perception of him changes. Some have suggested the six-time Pro Bowl performer has been in decline but with Cutler and Matt Forte able to better keep opponents honest, the Bears' run blocking might look different.

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We'll get in one more positional breakdown before we switch gears from this analysis for a few days and get into some other material we hope you find interesting, including Four Down Territory on Friday. Up this morning are the fullbacks.

Projected starter: Jason McKie, 5-11, 247, 8th year, Temple

Others

Jason Davis, 5-10, 242, 2nd year, Illinois
Will Ta'ufo'ou, 5-11, 247, Rookie, Cal

Projected depth chart

McKie

2009 salary cap numbers

Jason Davis $390,200
Jason McKie $995,000
Will Ta'ufo'ou $311,666

Number of fullbacks on 2008 roster at start of the season: 1

Projected number of fullbacks on 2009 roster at start of the season: 1

The skinny: The Bears got a pretty good look at another player in Davis when a quad muscle injury knocked McKie out after 11 games. McKie has been a pretty durable performer appearing in 15 or more games in three of the last five seasons. A torn pectoral muscle kept him out for half of the year in 2005. He's a dependable player who has become a bit of a threat in the red zone, rushing for two touchdowns last season and catching another pass for a score to give him seven touchdowns over the last three seasons. Davis proved to be a nice find when he joined the practice squad at the start of the season and the Bears were lucky to get him back after the brief mid-season stint he had in Oakland. He's got the talent to play in the league but is in a numbers crunch after tight end Michael Gaines was signed. The Bears talked with Gaines about using him as an H-back on occasion and lining him up in the backfield and that kind of versatility could put the squeeze on Davis and lead the Bears to keep just one fullback on the 53-man roster as they did at the start of last season. Gaines could get them through a game in an emergency if something happened to McKie. Of course, second year tight end Kellen Davis also figures into the equation. If the Bears only keep three tight ends, it increases the chance that an extra running back or fullback make the roster. Kellen Davis has draft status, though, and Jason Davis does not. Given the addition of Jay Cutler at quarterback and the trend last season with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and the fullback position, we're also inclined to believe that only one fullback will make the roster. The Bears relied less on the fullback in 2008, with playing time dropping to 34.88 percent of the plays down from 41.15 percent in 2007. The drop was due in large part to the expansion of double tight end formations. Ta'ufo'ou was an interesting guy going into the draft but his stock dipped and he would up being signed as an undrafted free agent. He might not be the listed height of 5-11 and faces a real uphill battle to crack the roster.

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