A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Bears Discover Smith Really Means Business
CHICAGO, ILL.— It was obvious after one minicamp that the Bears are going about their business much differently under Lovie Smith than they did under Dick Jauron. Critics likened Jauron’s minicamps and training camps to a country club, dubbing the laid-back, veteran-friendly workouts “Dick’s Last Resort.”
Under Smith, preseason camps might come to be called “Lovie’s Boot Camp.”
“You saw we had a couple of collisions out there, which is not bad,” an amused Smith said Saturday.
The most jarring collision occurred Saturday morning and sidelined Pro Bowl wide receiver Marty Booker for that afternoon’s practice.
Although the only protective gear worn in minicamp are helmets, safety Todd Johnson’s hit on Booker was more violent than most of the contact in a full-pads practice during the past couple of years.
Jauron wanted to avoid injuries at all costs, and so does Smith, but the new coach considers contact, even in practice, part of the game.
“Things like that are going to happen,” Smith said of the Johnson-Booker meeting. “Two guys going for the ball. They both got up (off the ground). No, that didn’t bother me at all, really.
“We hope nothing serious happens, but it’s a contact sport. Things are going to happen like that. We want them going fast. When guys sometimes go a little harder than they should, we’ll tell them about it then. Overall, that is the tempo we want to have.”
The increased tempo was another notable characteristic of Smith’s minicamp.
Each session opened with a pursuit drill by the defense. All 11 players were required to sprint to the farthest corner of the field, either to the right or the left, representing pursuit of the football.
On Friday, it required three repetitions before Smith was satisfied with the effort. On Saturday, the defense got it right the first time.
“Improvement,” Smith said with a smile. “We’re making progress with that. Practice (No.) 3 was a lot better than 2 and 1. That’s how it should be.”
The difference from last season certainly didn’t escape the players. Though Smith had told them they would run more than they were accustomed to, they are now convinced.
“When Lovie came in the first day, he said, ‘This is what we expect you to do,’Ã¦” defensive end Michael Haynes said. “But then, after our first practice, you’re like, ‘OK, he was serious. He wasn’t blowing smoke.’ “He wants you to run, and as I found out that first day, you’re going to run. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. You’re going to do it again and again ’til he gets what he wants. So it’s a lot asier to do it right the first time, get it out of the way and go on and practice.”
Haynes, up to 287 pounds at the end of last year after working to add bulk every year since he enrolled at Penn State as a 245-pounder, is now being asked to cut weight along with every other defensive player. Haynes probably will be in the 260s by opening day.
“In this defense, our coaches are telling us to go, just run,” Haynes said. “If you take off quickly, you’re going to run into something, and once you hit something, you’ll know what to do. Instead of reading and reacting, just go.”
The defensive philosophy that Smith and coordinator Ron Rivera are preaching is 11 men to the ball; hence, the pursuit drill and the weight reduction.
Several players already appear lighter and quicker. They all will by training camp, or they’ll probably be playing on a different team.
“We want to get quicker,” said Smith, who hasn’t demanded specific weights yet. “As we talked to most of the players that we asked to lose weight, we said, ‘Hey, start at 10. Lose 10 and we’ll kind of go from there.’ “It’s just not like I’m playing Dr. Smith and telling them what weight to go to. They’re working with nutritionists and we’re doing it the right way.
“It’s just right now we’re all heavy, and I really think if the guys don’t change their diet or anything else, once we get them and we continue to just kind of pound them and run them, that weight will come off. That’s normally how it works with me.”
And that’s how Smith intends for it to work for the Bears.