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Lovie Smith confident Bears can reach long-term deal with Matt Forte

Updated: March 25, 2012 8:20AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Bears coach Lovie Smith said ‘‘it’s a matter of time’’ before the Bears come to terms with Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte on a long-term contract.

The Bears can apply the franchise tag on Forte if they cannot agree on a long-term contract. After Forte moped his way through the second half of last season, it’s possible that scenario could be more problematic in 2012.

But Smith, speaking to reporters at the NFL scouting combine, sounded hopeful the Bears could sign Forte to a long-term contract under new general manager Phil Emery.

‘‘Knowing that Matt is going to play his football for the Chicago Bears — so you start with that,’’ Smith said. ‘‘In time, hopefully we can get an agreement that suits Matt and [the Bears]. And I think it’s a matter of time, and that’ll happen eventually.’’

The hot receiver

Perhaps because the Bears don’t want to tip their hand, Smith downplayed any specific interest in what appears to be an obvious void at wide receiver. Mock drafts have the Bears taking a receiver — usually Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd — more than any other position.

‘‘In the offseason we look to improve our ball club — wide receiver, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, running back, coaching staff, the works,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Wide receiver is a part of that.’’

Change at the top

Smith, speaking to the media for the first time since general manager Jerry Angelo was fired, said he was not surprised at the move, because of the nature of the business, and called Angelo a ‘‘lifetime friend.’’

‘‘We know in our profession [with] what’s at stake changes can happen at any time,’’ Smith said. ‘‘I’m here primarily because of what Jerry Angelo did for me —leading the charge to give me the opportunity to be the head football coach here. I can’t necessarily say surprised at the end of the year, it’s not a surprise, I don’t think any coach or GM in the league is surprised about anything that happens but again Jerry did an awful lot for us, but you move on and that’s what we’ve done.’’

Backup QB plan

Smith said the Bears ‘‘have a lot of options,’’ to upgrade the No. 2 quarterback after Caleb Hanie’s devastating flop last season. But signing a veteran free agent seemed to be at the top of the list. The Bears finished last season with Hanie, Josh McCown and rookie Nathan Enderle behind Cutler.

‘‘We need to get ourselves in a better position at the backup quarterback position,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We have a lot of options out there. I think this is an attractive place for a quarterback. We’re going to look at all people. And I’m talking Caleb, Josh and free-agent quarterbacks out there. I just feel like we’ll be able to strengthen that position more than we were [last] year.’’

The hot seat

Working under a new GM, Smith said he feels he is in a ‘‘win-or-else’’ situation in 2012 — but no more than in his previous eight seasons as the Bears’ head coach.

‘‘Every year I’ve been a head football coach I felt like we had to win the next year or else,’’ Smith said. ‘‘There’s a standard that we’re going to try to get accomplished. That hasn’t changed at all.’’



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