Bears general manager Phil Emery denied a report that he is negotiating a contract extension for coach Lovie Smith, reiterating his pre-training-camp comments that ”my preference is do do these things at the end of the year.”
In a post-practice bye-week interview with reporters at Halas Hall, Emery also said he has no issue with quarterback Jay Cutler’ on-field demeanor, saying he consider naitonally televised incidents Cutler has had with left tackle J’Marcus Webb and offensive coordinator Mike Tice as family squabbles. ”I’m a Jay Cutler fan,” Emery said.
Asked to ”shed light” on the WSCR-AM report that he had begun negotiations with Smith on a contract extension, Emery said, ”That’s an interesting word, ‘light,’ because I kind of took that light-hearted when I heard it.
”Geez, even if it was true, when would we have gotten that done? Coach Smith is very focused on improving his team on a daily basis. My mindset is with the personnel group and working with the coaches and making sure we have the right people on the roster on a daily basis, going out to colleges, doing visitations, getting ready for the next NFL draft. There’s not enough hours in the day to have those kind of conversations.”
Emery also resolutely backed Cutler, who is 21st in the NFL with a 78.7 passer rating after five games and has been criticized not only locally but nationally for berating Webb during the Packers game and blowing off Tice when Tice tried to talk to him after a drive stalled against the Cowboys.
”I see my job as an evaluator and as a manger of people,” Emery said. ”To me, a team is very much a family. I know that we have a lot of happy times in each one of our families and sometimes we have some dust-ups that we have to work through.
”To me, the important thing of family when I consider my own family and when I look at the team is, ‘At the end of the day, are we all going in the same direction in a positive way? Do we have a passion for one another? Are we allowing each other to move towards excellence? Are we there to help one another? True love and understanding for each other? And do we have a commitment towards moving forward?’
In each one of those ways, when I look at Jay Cutler, the answer is yes. He’s a passionate player. He has great drive and energy. He’s moving towards excellence. He does care and love his teammates. And he’s a big part of what we’re doing and the positive things that we’re doing.”
Emery also said middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who clearly is not physically the player he has been in the past, is still ”doing an outstanding job” or making the most of it and helping the team win.
“What I see on the field is a great communicator,” Emery said. ”I definitely sense that having gone through the preseason, when he’s not in there and when he is there, this guy has a tremendous role in terms of the communicating of our defense and making it all fit together. And I think he’s doing an outstanding job with that. And I think that’s a big part of why we’re playing well.
”From a physical aspect, I do see a guy that’s gotten better each week working back through the injury.”
Emery also said that even with rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery out with a hand injury, he likes the receivers the Bears have and is not interested in acquiring available veterans such as Plaxico Burress or Terrell Owens.
”We feel very good about our wide receiver depth,” Emery said. ”We added a player to our practice squad [Kamar Aiken] to make sure that we were in a good, competitive situation for practice to continue to improve and that’s where we’re at right now with that.”
Emery was less specific about the offensive line, which struggled early in the season, but has improved in recent games.
”I think all of us need to keep improving,” Emery said. ”That’s where I’ve been really impressed with coach Smith. He takes great ownership for this team. He keeps pushing all the right buttons, not only coaching his players and inter-relating with his players, but coaching his coaches. Working with us in personnel.
”Those are the key improvements that I’m looking for, moving forward. Do we earn it each and every week, like we talked about in August? And so far the answer has been, ‘Yes.’
”Offensive line in particular is starting to come together as a group. they have made improvements, must like our whole team. Four out of five games, they’ve played well enough to win games.”