But only recently did he return to the practice field after missing most of the offseason practices as he recovers from Achilles tendon surgery. New offensive line coach Mike Tice was glad to see him on the field with the first team in Wednesday's final OTA.
"He's such a leader," Tice said. "He's got a great understanding and awareness of the defense and things they are trying to do. He's very confident in his calls. Confidence just oozes out of his pores."
--Lovie Smith practically bristled when he was asked, at the end of OTAs, if he had a team that could compete for the playoffs.
"As far as 'compete,' that's not our goal, to (just) compete," Smith said. "We have the same goal we have every year, and that's win the Super Bowl, win the world championship. It's early on, and you need to get in pads, but I just like the look of this team. I think you'll get that from most of our veterans. We know what a good football team looks like, and this is a good football team."
The Bears are 23-25 over the past three seasons, missing the playoffs each year.
--QB Jay Cutler is learning a new offense this off-season, just as he did last year, his first with the Bears.
A year ago, Cutler picked up Ron Turner's offense pretty easily, but he's had to work a little harder to get a handle on Mike Martz's scheme.
"Last year's system I was familiar with that because some of the stuff I had done in the past," he said. "This year is completely new to myself as well as a lot of guys on the team, so it took a little bit more studying, a little bit more hard work mentally for us to come out here and be prepared. I think Mike did a great job of getting everyone ready in meetings of doing enough walkthroughs out here so that everyone feels comfortable."
--When the Bears re-acquired safety Chris Harris in a trade with the Panthers for LB Jamar Williams, it didn't create nearly as much press as their free-agent pickups of Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna in free agency. But the Bears hope Harris will upgrade a safety tandem that disappointed last season. Harris started for the Bears as a rookie, after they drafted him in the sixth round in 2005. But he was deemed expendable during training camp in 2007, mainly because of the addition of Adam Archuleta, who was a major bust.
"Chris Harris coming back, (he) was exactly what I remember," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's moved right into that role. Chris will have more of a leadership role, too. He's a vocal guy. You have another coach on the field."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"You see a guy on video, but when you see him up close and personal, in person, he's a 300-pound man who moves like a defensive back. That's what you're dealing with." -- Bears coach Lovie Smith on DE Julius Peppers
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