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Bears' Smith: New GM, but standard to win hasn't changed

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
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Posted Feb. 23, 2012 @ 1:19 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

INDIANAPOLIS — Bears head coach Lovie Smith knows the stakes heading into next season.

His new boss, Bears GM Phil Emery, had to agree to keep Smith on board through the 2012 season in order to be hired this offseason, but Emery will have the ability to make a change at head coach once the season is over.

Smith, who is signed through 2013, was asked Thursday at the Scouting Combine if it's a win-or-else situation for him heading into next season.

"Every year I've been a head football coach, and pretty much a position coach, I felt like we needed to win the next year," Smith said. "There's a standard we were going to try to get accomplished. That hasn't changed at all. As far as more pressure with a new GM having to keep me — I don't think any of the (candidates for the job) looked at it that way. Hopefully, they were looking at a great situation that they were going into.

"They were looking at a team two years ago that went to the NFC Championship game. A team that was 7-3 this past year before injuries happened. That's the coach that you're getting. So, don't look at it that way. I know Phil is excited about the job and everything that was in place when he took the job."

The session with the media was Smith's first since the day after the regular season ended, and he offered an update on some of the players that have been recovering from injuries, including Johnny Knox, who suffered a severe back injury during a Dec. 18 game vs. the Seahawks. Knox is facing a tough road back — some reports have his timetable for a return set at as long as six months — after undergoing a vertebral fusion procedure.

"Johnny's rehabbing everyday," Smith said. "Making a lot of progress. Can't wait to get him back out on the football field. Jay Cutler's thumb is fine, so we don't see anything major as far as injuries that we're going to have to deal with."

As for 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi, who played in only two games before knee surgeries landed him on injured reserve, Smith he "hopefully" would be ready for the start of the offseason program, which begins on April 16.

"I don't know exactly when Gabe will be ready right now, just off the top of my head," Smith said. "I just know I see him everyday working. Everything is going as planned. ... We're excited about what Gabe Carimi will bring to us. Just talk about adding pieces — I look at him as a free agent we're going to add to the mix. He's a first-round draft pick that barely played for us last year."

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