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Bears GM Angelo dismisses rumors that he'll leave after season

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo put one rumor to rest, saying he has no plans to step aside after this season.

If anything, he seems rejuvenated.

The Bears are back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2006 team's Super Bowl run, with a first-round bye after going 11-5 and winning the NFC North. They will host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles or Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 16, and if Angelo felt like gloating, he wasn't about to let it out Thursday.

"One thing about you guys, you've always kept me humble," he said. "There's none of that."

Angelo also dismissed speculation that he might step down, saying: "I don't even know why that's important to anyone. I heard it. The only one that's happy to hear that is my wife, but that's not going to happen. I'm very fortunate to be here. As long as I'm blessed with health, I continue to do what I love to do and that's being part of football."

While putting to rest questions about his own future, Angelo said there will be no discussions with coach Lovie Smith about a contract extension until after the season. Smith has one year remaining on his deal.

"When the season's over -- and hopefully that's not going to be for a while -- then we will address all those things," Angelo said. "We always do what we need to do to take care of business, and I'm going to leave it at that."

The Bears gave Smith an extension following the Super Bowl run, then went three years without making the playoffs. A seven-win season left many fans calling for Angelo and Smith to be gone this time last year, but Chicago is back in the postseason thanks to a big run after its off week and a big shopping spree during the offseason.

No move was more important than signing free agent Julius Peppers. With a Pro Bowl defensive end up front and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher healthy again, the Bears' defense looked like the dominant unit that led the way to the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.

"I'm sure some people even looked at us, going into the year, that we were going to be a hopeless team, that it was just a matter of time when the ship would sink," Angelo said. "We never felt that way."

Even so, he acknowledged: "I don't see this as a team with great talent."

Instead, he sees a team that plays well together and responded just when it appeared to be sinking.

The Bears had trouble adapting to Mike Martz's offense, and quarterback Jay Cutler was being flattened with the line offering no protection.

They stumbled into their off week with three losses in four games following a 3-0 start and appeared to be coming apart, but some big adjustments paid off. They won seven of eight before dropping the regular-season finale at Green Bay, a season-saving run that landed them the second seed in the NFC playoffs and their third division title in seven seasons under Smith.

"In our business, it's all about credibility," Angelo said. "And I felt like we lost some credibility. We did. It just goes with the territory. We weren't getting the job done.

"In terms of how I felt about Lovie, how I feel about the staff -- I've always felt good about that. But you know what? The bottom line is the bottom line. You've got to win football games. You've got to win your division. And that's what creates credibility. It's not personality, it's not how I feel about anybody."

Angelo touched on other areas during his news conference.

» On if Cutler can become an elite quarterback, like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees: "He has everything you need as a quarterback to get to that level. He still needs to have more of a body of work to be put in there in comparison with them because all those guys have great resumes. Hopefully, Jay's going to have a great resume, and hopefully, this year is the start of that resume. He has all the traits to be a great quarterback."

» On how the team mostly stayed healthy: "I wish I could tell you that because we'd bottle it and I could get out of doing what I'm doing and go sell snake oil. We do a good job in the offseason, but we didn't do anything different than we've done in years past. ... We always say you got to have a little luck; we've had a little luck with injuries."

» On the much maligned surface at Soldier Field: "You've got two seasons here in Chicago. And as the year goes on, the surface isn't going to be as good. The bottom line is that it is a safe surface, and that's what we're fixed on, making sure we play on a safe surface. We have been able to win some games on that surface. We've lost on that surface. I don't see it being an advantage to anybody. It's the teams that play well that win."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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