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Bears coach Lovie Smith likes look of team

Johnny Knox  Earl Bennett BrandMarshall Mike Tice

Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Brandon Marshall, Mike Tice

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Updated: July 16, 2012 6:36AM

The next time we’ll see the Bears will be during training camp in Bourbonnais.

‘‘We have seen some good football teams around here,’’ coach Lovie Smith said after the Bears wrapped up a three-day minicamp Thursday at Halas Hall. ‘‘Last year’s team was pretty good when we were 7-3 before the injuries hit us. We have added some more good football players to that core, so we’re feeling pretty good about our group. I can’t wait to get down to training camp.’’

Not only have the Bears added more front-line weapons, such as receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Michael Bush, but they appear to be deeper than ever.

‘‘I’d say we’re a better football team,’’ Smith said. ‘‘I’m talking about the
53-man roster, even the 61-man roster with the practice squad. We have some pretty good training-camp battles, too, going on. I feel like we have an idea
of what direction we’re going in.’’

It’s impossible to evaluate offensive linemen during the offseason. That will be the most critical position to watch when players report to camp.

‘‘To be quite frank with you, you’re not going to tell anything about your offensive line until they put pads on,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. ‘‘To sit there and say, ‘Oh, yeah, this guy, he’s going to be the answer to the problems,’ that would be silly. So we just want to make sure that they’re assignment-sound, technique-sound, working their hands.

‘‘One of the areas that we wanted to improve across the board was our hands, using our hands better, keeping the players away from us. We know we have guys that can run, so that’s going to help our running game. That’s really all we can look at right now.’’

Charles in charge

Veteran cornerback Charles Tillman was matched up against Marshall twice during a goal-line passing drill Thursday. Both times, he intercepted quarterback Jay Cutler.

‘‘I just know that I’ve seen him go through a lot of different phases with his career,’’ Smith said earlier in the week when asked whether Tillman was improving heading into his 10th season. ‘‘But it seems like he’s picking up steam here lately.

‘‘He’s always been able to strip the football as well as anybody I’ve seen in the league. . . . Then just his other skills as a defensive back. There aren’t a lot of corners like him, with his type of size and ability. So we’re expecting him to have another career year, and I think he’ll say the same.’’

Roster moves

The Bears terminated the contracts of veteran guard Mansfield Wrotto and quarterback Nathan Enderle.

They chose Enderle in the fifth round (160th overall) of the 2011 draft largely on the recommendation of former offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

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