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Ted Phillips: Bears to have edge when NFL lockout ends

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



NEW ORLEANS — Bears president Ted Phillips is confident the labor impasse won’t have an impact on the season, but he’s even more confident that his team will be better off than most whenever a deal is reached.

“I think it’s huge,” Phillips said when asked about his team’s continuity, “and with the labor uncertainty we have now, that’s why we’ve preached, internally, to cover all bases and be ready because you never know when the deal is going to get done.

“We’re going to have a competitive edge.”

With coach Lovie Smith’s contract extended, the defending NFC North champion Bears head into an offseason of uncertainty with largely the same roster of coaches, players and scouts.

They’re an exception.

There have been many changes throughout the league, including six teams ­hiring new head coaches and several others looking to ­address quarterback issues.

The Denver Broncos, for ­instance, hired franchise ­legend John Elway as their executive vice president of football operations in January, then hired John Fox as head coach soon after.

The already-daunting task of transition becomes even more trying as the lockout ­continues.

“When you hire a new coach and you don’t get to touch your players in the offseason, it makes it tougher,” Elway said Monday. “I think everyone is hoping for [a deal] sooner than later.

‘‘Everyone wants to get back and play football. But, obviously, some teams are going to be at a disadvantage the longer it goes because, with new systems going in, it’s going to be tougher to [install].”

Further complicating matters for the Broncos is that — with a new coach and top football executive in place — the coaches and scouts don’t have history to fall back on.

“We cued it up as if it was going to happen March 4, and whenever it does happen, we’ll be ready,” Elway said. “No one likes to have the uncertainty of it, but we also know at some point it’ll be back.”

Smith enters his eighth season, and his largely ­veteran roster already knows the schemes and what’s ­expected in the offseason.

The maximum number of days a team can hold offseason workouts is 56, but Smith only schedules the players to be at Halas Hall 40 days.

“It’s been business as usual for us,” Smith said. “We feel pretty good. We can pick up from there and be in pretty good shape.

“When you have veteran players, it’s not like we have a bunch of kindergartners that you have to tell them when to start working out and what’s coming up. I feel pretty good that they’re doing what they need to do.”

Meanwhile, as other teams implement layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs, the Bears insist their staff won’t be ­adversely affected until games are in jeopardy.

“Virginia McCaskey preaches family, and they’ve been in professional football since Day 1,” Phillips said. “They follow through with what they say in terms of, ‘We’re a family.’

“We talked about it internally, and I wanted to keep people focused and motivated, and I wanted to reduce some of the fear that was ­inside all of them.”

In addition, Phillips said he has told employees what the pay cut would be if games are lost.

“Just in case they want to start saving for the possibility,” Phillips said.

“I didn’t want to hit them in August and them to say, ‘Wow.’ ’’

Phillips, though, noted that the Bears have made changes and didn’t stick to the status quo.

“Lovie and [general manager] Jerry [Angelo] stayed, but there were some significant changes on the coaching front,’’ Phillips said.

‘‘We had a big free-agent acquisition, and Jerry and Lovie continued their good, strong communication style. So I couldn’t have been happier when we had a good year, although we still didn’t reach where we wanted to get.

“But we got pretty darn close.”

Phillips also suggested the length of Smith’s extension, which coincides with Angelo’s deal, wasn’t coincidental. Both deals expire in 2013.

“[That] is a long time,” ­Phillips said, “so they don’t have to just focus on the short term. And they work well together.”



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