Bears’ Tim Jennings moves on without Lovie, Urlacher
BY MARK POTASH Twitter: @MarkPotash April 9, 2013 9:54AM
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) celebrates with cornerback Tim Jennings after Jenning's interception late in the game sealed the Chicago Bears 23-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams Sunday September 23, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: April 9, 2013 10:01AM
Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings was disappointed when the Bears fired Lovie Smith. But he’s over it.
‘’There’s not a hangover anymore. Football season’s getting ready to start. Guys are excited, back in the locker room,’’ Jennings said Monday at James Otis World Language Academy on Grand Ave., where he presented the school with a $10,000 health and wellness grant for winning an NFL-sponsored Play 60 Super School contest.
‘’When it happened, of course it was disappointing. But that’s [because] the season was over and we had no more football. Now’ we’re getting acclimated to football, we’re back to working out as a team. We have each other. And that’s all that really matters.
‘’You can only play for who’s there and who’s in that locker room. That’s our motivation. That’s our focus. Now we have an opportunity to get back together and start working for that goal.’’
Though some have worried that the Bears would lose their ‘’elite defense’’ if Lovie Smith was fired, Jennings is confident the Bears can maintain their excellence under new head coach Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
‘’Any time you lose a guy like Lovie and Rod Marinielli you feel like you’re missing some pieces,’’ Jennings said. ‘’But we’ve played in that system long enough. We know eveything it brings and how to play it and we have the leaders in the core defense to know what it takes to get the job done.
‘’It think we’ve brought in a good staff with Mel Tucker, running a similar defense. It’s not going to change a lot. We’re still going to have the same guys out there running the same solid defense.’’
Jennings knows it won’t be all of the same guys. The most notable difference of course is the absence of eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
‘’It’s still weird [that he’s not there]. But I think we’re going to handle it tremendously,’’ said Jennings, who led the NFL with nine interceptions in 2012. ‘’We’ve played without Brian before. Guys are going to have to step up their game, because Brian brings a whole lot more to the team. He brings leadership, direction. He calls everything. Everybody’s going to have to step up their game a little bit more to fill those big shoes.’’
But he is confident the Bears will be able to fill those shoes.
‘’Most definitely,’’ Jennings said. ‘’We’ve got Julius Peppers, young guys like Henry Melton. Our d-line is still there. Me and Peanut are coming back from a Pro Bowl year. We’re still hungry. Lance [Briggs] is still playing at a high level.
‘’We’ve got young safeties back there [Major Wright, Chris Conte]. We still have everything. We’re just missing No. 54. We won games with him not being there. I think our core defense is there. We just have to plug in some new pieces. But we do that every year.’’
Jennings said there will be differences with the new coaching staff. ‘’Different coach. Different rules,’’ he said. ‘’It’s something we all have to get used to and hope that everything works out.’’
He said he likes Mel Tucker, who was the defensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to joining the Bears.
“I like him. I like him a lot,’’ Jennings said. ‘’He’s a straight-forward type of guy. He’s a players coach. You can go to him and talk to him about anything. He’s a guy that puts you in postion and wants you to make plays. That’s all you can ask for as a player.’’