Bears’ Smith looks forward to Cutler, Forte returning

INDIANAPOLIS — Bears coach Lovie Smith has a new boss to impress in general manager Phil Emery, but excuse him if he isn’t exactly feeling the heat to “win or else.”

“As far as more pressure, new GM having to keep me, I don’t think any of the guys look at it that way,” Smith said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Hopefully, (the new regime) were looking at a great situation they were coming into. They were looking at a team two years ago that was in the NFC Championship Game and a team that was 7-3 (last season) before injuries happened. … I know Phil was excited about the job and everything that was in place.”

Bears coach Lovie Smith speaks Thursday at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. (Gary A. Vasquez/NFL)

The Bears were 7-3 last season before they lost QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte to thumb and knee injuries, respectively, for the season. The Bears naturally struggled down the stretch to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

“Of course, an 8-8 record isn’t good enough. But I like the football team that we had most of the year,” Smith said. “To start out 7-3 says that we have some good players, and we’re on the right track, but it’s about finishing. And we didn’t.”

Despite that, Smith is very much looking forward to what next season holds with his key players back in the mix — assuming, of course, Forte receives a new deal.

“That was a pretty good football team,” Smith said. “I thought we’d be able to handle that situation better, but we didn’t play with two pretty good football players. I just can’t wait to get them back on the field and go through an entire season with them.”

— Simon Samano

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