Lovie doesn’t begrudge Harbaugh
By Sean Jensen and Neil Hayes firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com
Coach Lovie Smith, whose contract expires after 2011, doesn’t have any problem with Jim Harbaugh reportedly commanding a contract that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid coach.
“Really don’t spend a lot of time even thinking about it or worrying about it, for sure,” Smith said. “I’m all for any coach getting as much as he possibly can, and I assume if some owner is willing to pay a guy a number like that, they’re worth it.’’
Smith may spend some time pondering a raise — he makes more than $5 million annually — once the team’s season is over. Harbaugh could be in line for a deal that pays him between $7 million and $8 million. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick reportedly makes $7.5 million, according to Forbes.
General manager Jerry Angelo said such talks aren’t for the here and now.
“I know it’s cliché-ish, but clichés are there for a reason,” Angelo said. “We have focused on each and every week. I think that’s critical in football. We’ve stayed that course, and we will continue to stay that course.
“When the season’s over, and hopefully that’s not going to be for a while, then we will address all those things. We always do what you need to do to take care of your business, and I’m going to leave it at that.”
Meanwhile, with numerous NFL and college jobs opening, Smith said he hopes some of his assistants get a chance for promotions.
“When you have success, you want others to reap the benefits from it,” Smith said.
Tight ends coach Mike DeBord has a long history in the college ranks, and assistant special-teams coach Chris Tabor could be ready to take over a unit by himself.
Tackling is key
The secondary was considered a weakness heading into the season, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case, especially when you consider how well Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings have tackled, a key to running a successful cover-2 defense.
“We have been pleased with our secondary, especially a guy like Tim Jennings,” Smith said. “When we started off the season, you guys, and ladies, weren’t asking a lot of questions about Tim Jennings, but now he’s one of our guys. To tell if you’re a tough football team or not, a lot of times you can base that on whether your corners tackle. Adding Tim Jennings to the mix, our corners definitely tackle.”
Jennings was signed for depth at cornerback during the offseason, won the starting job and hasn’t looked back. One of the keys to the success of the 5-8, 185-pounder is how physical he has been.
“That back row and really our corners, they have tackled,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “I can’t believe there’s a better tackling group of corners in the NFL, and they do it all, from rerouting to ball skills and takeaways.”
Angelo has heard Jay Cutler and Brian Urlacher criticize the turf at Soldier Field, but nothing he has seen or heard makes him feel as if a new surface is a priority.
“The surface is the surface,” Angelo said. “You’ve got two seasons here in Chicago. As the year goes on, the surface isn’t going to be as good. The bottom line is that it’s a safe surface, and that’s what we’re fixed on.”
Angelo said team president Ted Phillips is focused on learning more about the safety of grass compared to artificial surfaces before any decision is made.
“We’ll talk about it,” he said. “We talked about it last year. Ted has said he wants to get more comfortable in the research. I’m not ruling it out.”
Linebacker Nick Roach (shoulder) and safeties Major Wright (lower leg) and Chris Harris (stinger) did not practice Thursday. Center Olin Kreutz, guard Roberto Garza and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna were given the day off.