INDIANAPOLIS - Bears coach Lovie Smith addressed the media Saturday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine, touching on many topics concerning the upcoming season and the draft.
Here are some of the highlights from that news conference in question and answer form:
Q. How surprised were you by John Tait's (intention to) retirement and was it injury related?
A. I think after you've played as many years as John has you just get to the point where you've had enough and of course I think he can still play, he has more years left in him but I guess as a football player you know when. Of course I tried to talk him out of it but for the guys that know John, you know that he doesn't come to decisions overnight. He put a little bit of thought into it, so we wish him the best and we'll go from there.
Q. Is John St. Clair (who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 27) now a must-sign?
A. John St. Clair was big for us even before John Tait retired. John played well for us throughout the year. He was consistent each week, we knew what we were gonna get from him. Of course we'd like for him to remain a member of our team.
Q. Can you evaluate Devin Hester's progress in his move to wide receiver?
A. He made a lot of progress during the course of the year. The last month of the season he was playing very good football. I think he'll make another step. He's excited about having a chance to throw with Kyle throughout the off-season. Last year we had different things going on with the quarterback position, and Devin was working his way into it, but he's a lot further along now. I think he'll be able to handle being a full-time receiver and being the best punt returner in the league next year also.
Q. Is the quarterback position set now or will you look at drafting someone or signing someone in free agency?
A. We always like to keep our options open, but we like what we have at the quarterback position, adding Brett Basanez. Caleb Hanie played very well when he got a chance in the preseason last year, but it all starts with the guy you have leading your team and we feel comfortable with (Kyle Orton).
Q. Is there a chance you will move Charles Tillman to safety?
A. You know, I'm still trying to figure out where that talk started. He's our No. 1 corner and we're going to move him to free safety? Who came up with that anyway? Who in the Chicago media started that? Again, I don't know where that came from. Charles Tillman is a cornerback for us. I can't wait to get him back out on the football field.
A. we talk about free agents and what we're going to do in free-agency, I fell like we've already signed the best free agent on the market right now in (assistant head coach/defensive line) Rod Marinelli with our coaching staff and also adding (defensive backs coach) Jon Hoke to that mix. Jon Hoke is excited about getting a chance to work with Charles.