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There's change in the air for Bears, but Lovie won't talk about it
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Bears head coach Lovie Smith looks up at the scoreboard in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.


Associated Press

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Published: 10/29/2009 12:00 AM | Updated: 10/29/2009 12:12 AM

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While coach Lovie Smith admitted nothing Wednesday in the way of potential personnel changes for Sunday, general manager Jerry Angelo all but confirmed a shake-up on the team's Web site earlier in the day.

"Do we need to look at some personnel?" Angelo said on "Yeah, we do. There's some of that going on, as you'll see Sunday."

The most likely change is Josh Beekman for Frank Omiyale at left guard, although neither left tackle Orlando Pace nor right tackle Chris Williams has played well enough to be above reproach.

Backup tackle Kevin Shaffer would be a logical replacement since he was a starter with the Cleveland Browns the past three years, and with the Atlanta Falcons for 21/2 years before that.

Another scenario could see Omiyale moved outside to his natural tackle position in place of Pace or Williams, with Beekman taking over at left guard. Another possibility is rotating players at some positions.

Defensively, strongside linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and middle linebacker Nick Roach are expected to switch positions, leaving the responsibility of relaying play calls, switching calls and getting players lined up in the correct position to the more experienced Hillenmeyer.

After the blowout loss at Cincinnati, Smith said: "There were several things we did wrong, starting with just getting aligned. We weren't aligned properly at times."

After six-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher suffered a season-ending dislocated wrist in the season opener, Hillenmeyer took over and then started the next two games, as the Bears defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks.

But Hillenmeyer went down with a fractured rib in the Seattle game, and Roach took over. Roach, a third-year player, has 14 NFL starts, including the past three games at middle linebacker.

Hillenmeyer, a seven-year veteran with 59 starts, re-entered the starting lineup last week at strongside linebacker after Pisa Tinoisamoa suffered a knee injury a week earlier.

Smith refused to provide any clarity regarding any lineup changes.

"We make changes when we think it warrants a change," he said. "It's as simple as that. That's the only thing you can go on. If we think somebody gives us a better chance to win, we make changes. Guys realize that."

Pressed on what specific changes might be expected, Smith again declined to expound.

"Our football team didn't play well, starting with me, Sunday," he said. "The last couple weeks we haven't played as well as we need to - all positions.

"So it's no more than that. So I don't talk about it. If we were going to make a personnel change we wouldn't talk about those through the week. Offensive line, (and) every position on our football team, (we) can't feel good about what we did."

When the topic inevitably came back around, Smith said: "OK, I'm not going to talk about anything personnel-wise. To me, that's pretty clear. If that's all you want to talk about, there's nothing else to talk about."

Asked why he wouldn't discuss personnel changes, he said: "I just don't want to, as simple as that. We don't want to give the opponent an advantage. We want them to wonder what we're going to do, like you are right now. That's the way it's been throughout. So it's not like there's something new that I'm coming up with right now."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner also declined to address potential lineup changes, and when asked who lined up with the starters at left guard, he said, "We lined up in our normal lineup."

Turner added that the offensive line doesn't deserve all the blame for the 45-10 loss to the Bengals.

"Everyone is focusing on the line, but it's not just them," he said. "It's everybody. We can't look at it and say, 'On the offensive line, if we make one change we're going to be better.' It's all the way across the board. It's us doing things to hurt ourselves.

"Everybody focuses on the offensive line for whatever reason, (but) it's coaching, it's players, it's different positions.

"We've all got to relax and play like we're capable of playing and not press, which I think we're doing at times, and everything will take care of itself."