Smith sees mostly blue sky

Coach says addition of Marshall and Bush will help produce more Bears-style football

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sunshine has not been difficult to find at the oceanfront site of the NFL meetings, but Lovie Smith brought more of it Wednesday in a breakfast with the media.

The Bears coach was particularly optimistic about the addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

"I thought Chicago Bear football, he would be a perfect mesh," Smith said. "I know what he can do catching the football. I'm talking about a big, physical presence, blocking. When I met him, right away, he (hugged me). To me, he was a perfect fit for us."

Asked about Marshall's off-the-field issues, Smith said, "If there was a big concern, we wouldn't have made the trade. We feel comfortable. We feel comfortable with our locker room. We checked out Brandon Marshall."

Smith said Marshall is versatile enough to play all three receiver spots, but indicated he likely would play only split end, at least initially.

That has been Johnny Knox's place. While Smith said he has no idea when Knox will be able to return from back surgery, he did allow Marshall's presence will mean reduced roles for others.

"When you go into the No. 1 position, it affects everybody," he said. "Everyone bumps down one."

Smith said he thought Knox could play elsewhere, however.

"As a wide receiver you want a guy to be able to beat a corner," Smith said. "Unless you are playing a guy in the slot an awful lot, that's where it's different. We have to get these guys on the field and let them tell us exactly where they need to be."

Added to the mix, Wednesday was Giants receiver Devin Thomas, who agreed to a one-year deal.

One way or another, Knox likely will play less in 2012. But Devin Hester's offensive snaps could increase.

Smith said one of the disappointments from last season was not utilizing the returner better as a receiver.

"We've been trying to get this happy medium, this perfect play time," Smith said. "We're going to continue to look for ways because he's special when he gets his hands on the ball."

Smith addressed a number of other topics. Among them:

•Smith wouldn't mind going to camp with the current group of offensive linemen. He even expressed confidence in left tackle J'Marcus Webb, who allowed 14 sacks last season.

"I don't want to picture it that we are looking for a left tackle," Smith said. "We feel comfortable with (Webb and Gabe Carimi). … We like (what) we have right now for what we are going to do with them. (But) we are always, right up until almost the opening game, (looking for) somebody we think can improve us."

In addressing Webb's inconsistency , Smith said, "You can look at the situation sometimes and anybody in the league can look bad. There are some things you have to do to help them out at times, which we plan to do."

Smith said Carimi is likely to start camp at right tackle, but did not rule out a shift to the left side.

He also said Chris Williams could move back to tackle, but he probably could make a better case for him at guard.

CHICAGO

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