Standing by his man: Lovie defends Cutler

INDIANAPOLIS — Bears coach Lovie Smith opened Friday’s chapter of the NFL Scouting Combine by defending his embattled QB, Jay Cutler.

Smith was asked if he or the team questioned Cutler’s toughness after the signal-caller appeared unwilling to play after suffering a knee injury in an NFC Championship Game loss to the Packers.

“No. Just to kind of hit Jay one last time. No,” Smith said. “There’s no question about Jay’s toughness or anything like that. For guys to even challenge that, or question that, (they) don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t know him. He’s as tough as any quarterback in the league.”

Smith, who agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with the Bears earlier in the day, also suggested that Cutler wouldn’t be supplanted by backup Caleb Hanie next season.

“I wouldn’t ask for any quarterback except for Jay Cutler,” Smith said.

Other items of interest from Smith, who held the podium at Lucas Oil Stadium for 15 minutes:

  • Smith was asked if next season is a must-win for him. “Not really,” he said. “Just to subtly answer your question, the goal has been to do the best possible job that I could, and I could live with the results. With three years on my contract, I feel pretty good about that.”
  • Smith talked about the Bears retaining their own free agents. “Some of the players that are free agents right now … I feel like we had a good combination going last year, I like what the players did. We would like to bring as many of the players back as possible. Of course, finances and things like that will have a lot to say about that.”
  • Smith said the team was “long past” getting over their NFC Championship Game loss to the Packers. “We were beaten by the better team that day. They beat everyone. There’s only one team in the end that really feels good about what they’ve done. We know that we’re close. We played the Super Bowl champions as well as anyone during the year.”
  • Smith talked about the Bears blocking the Titans from interviewing offensive line coach Mike Tice for their offensive coordinator job. The Bears extended Tice’s contract through the 2012 earlier this month. “As a general rule, I would like to see our guys advance any time they can. But there’s a deadline a little bit there. It was a little bit late in the game. Mike was OK. … Mike’s excited about being in our staff right now. The timing wasn’t right.”

Marc Sessler

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