Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith addresses the New England media during his conference call, on Wednesday, December 8, 2010.
Q: Can you explain the defensive impact Julius Peppers has had?
LS: Well, you need an impact player, especially with us, with everything we do. Defensively, it starts up front with our guys, so you need an impact player up there. That's exactly what he is. He can do it all, all the special things you want a defensive end to do. He's an all down player. He plays the run as hard as he plays the pass. He's a legitimate outside pass rusher, but he can also rush with speed on the outside. He's been elected team captain for a reason. He comes to work every day with his lunch pail. I just couldn't be more pleased with what he's done for our team.
Q: You've had a good defense for a long time in Chicago. Has he made it better?
LS: I don't think there's any doubt he's made it better. Again, we've had good football players here, but this is a special football player we're talking about. Julius had an opportunity to go wherever he wanted through free agency. He did his research and we're just happy he chose to come here with us. [Defensive Coordinator] Rod Marinelli has had [defensive linemen] a lot and I know Julius really did his research on Rod to get a defensive line coach that could really take his game to the next level.
Q: What is it that keeps Julius Peppers performing at a high level even with a new team, new system and a new contract?
LS: Oh, I can't talk on other players and we just don't look at it that way. We do our research on guys and our research said that, talking to many different people, everything that came out with Julius was positive. Exactly the type of guy that we wanted to get is what we got from the outside. You do your research and you hope you're right and you go from there.
Q: Do you remember how quickly you acted on signing Julius Peppers?
LS: Yes, immediately. We were ready to go at 12:01 a.m. We could officially start then and we did.
Q: Can you see why Tom Brady is playing at such a high level right now?
LS: You're right, he's playing great football right now. But he's been playing great football for so long now. When has he not played great football? And I agree that he's outstanding right not, but to me, being a fan of the game, Tom has played great ball forever. And you're right, right now he's going through a streak where we're looking for other words to describe it. He's a Hall of Fame quarterback and this is what they do. On the other side of the ball, we haven't played the Patriots for a while. With this team in general, you want to have an opportunity to play against a special player like this.
Q: Can you tell the difference in the offensive line since Logan Mankins has returned?
LS: Logan is arguably one of the best linemen in the game. Any team can do well without him, which the Patriots did. They continued to win without him, but adding another special player, a special lineman to the mix has to help your team quite a bit. Just look at the video of him. He's as tough as there is. He comes to work every day. He and I have the same agent, so I know a little bit about him. Everything is all good. You want a guy like that on your team.
Q: Since you guys have the same agent [Frank Bauer], were you trying to get him to coax Logan to sit out after you play him?
LS: [Laughing] I'll tell you, I'm sure that all 31 other teams would have gladly taken him if he hadn't chosen to go back. But knowing the type of guy he is - I'm talking about being loyal to the organization -there's only one place he was going.
Q: To what do you attribute Jay Cutler's better decision making this past month?
LS: I just try not to go back too far, back to what happened in the past. I just know what's happening now and he is making great decisions. We put in a whole new offensive system this year. It takes a little bit of time to get it down, and that's what Jay's done. I know he's just continued to work hard every day he's been here. He's always taken responsibility as the quarterback and on the team for anything that's going on. I just know he's making great decisions now. I'm not just talking about decisions on when to run, but to throw. I couldn't be more pleased. [Tom] Brady is playing great football, but Cutler since the bye is playing great football also.
Q: Can you point to anything that's been a factor to your current winning streak?
LS: No, we've stayed with our program as much as anything. We believe in our system in what we do, in how we're going to win football games and we stuck to our guns with that. I just know that when you go through a little bit of adversity - we went through a lot, went through a lot when we lost a couple games before our winning streak, two home games, which we normally don't do. But guys were saying, 'Let's just get back to the practice field and go to work.' It's always looking ahead. You guys asked me about some things that happened in the past, but that's just a blur to me. We're always about looking ahead and meeting this next challenge. We've gotten ourselves in a position where we're relevant in December and that's where we want to be.
Q: How is the newly-sodded Soldier Field?
LS: Yeah, I was down there yesterday and it was slick and hard to make cuts on. So, make sure you let those guys know that...No, but seriously, with the field this time of year, you have to deal with some of the elements. We're both going to play on the same field. New England is used to playing out in the elements, too. I don't feel like it will be that much of a factor.
Q: Have you and Mike Martz gone back to look at any of the previous games coached against Bill Belichick i.e. Super Bowl XXXVI?
LS: You know, you guys really live in the past don't you? We really don't go back into the past. A lot of things have happened in the past. We feel pretty good about what we're doing offensively right now and we're looking forward to the challenge of going against a great Patriots team now.