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Smith 'excited' after Bears give him extension through 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Chicago Bears gave coach Lovie Smith a two-year contract extension Friday, keeping him through the 2013 season after a year in which his team won the NFC North and made it to the conference championship game.

Smith, who led the Bears to the Super Bowl after the 2006 season, is 66-52 over seven seasons. His team came within one win of making it to the Super Bowl, losing at home to Green Bay last month.

Standing by his man

Bears coach Lovie Smith opened Friday's chapter of the NFL Scouting Combine by defending his embattled QB, Jay Cutler. "There's no question about Jay's toughness," he said. "...He's as tough as any quarterback in the league." **More**...

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"Every day I've been on the job, the goal has been to do the best possible job that I could, and I could live with the results," Smith said. "With three years on my contract, I feel pretty good about that."

General manager Jerry Angelo had said last month that the Bears planned to sign Smith to an extension.

Smith said Friday at the NFL Combine that he was happy to get the deal done. He gave his coaching staff credit for helping him get the new deal.

"I'm in position to be here and get that extension based on what the players and our staff has done," he said. "... I'm excited for this next step."

Smith said he expects quarterback Jay Cutler to lead the way. Cutler was criticized for sitting out most of the second half of the playoff loss to Green Bay, but doctors later found he had a medial collateral ligament strain in his left knee.

"Just to kind of hit Jay one last time, no, there's no question about Jay's toughness or anything like that," Smith said. "For guys to even challenge that or question that don't know what they're talking about, don't know him. He's as tough as any quarterback in the league."

The Bears hired Mike Martz as the team's offensive coordinator last season, and Smith said it was a success, even though the team ranked 21st in scoring and 30th in yards per game.

"Mike is a great offensive coach," he said. "We did some good things this year offensively. We won 12 games. We ended up in the (NFC) championship game. But Mike, and the rest of our staff, all of us would say we can take another step."

Smith said Cutler and Martz likely will improve in their second year together.

"I think the core is in place, starting with Jay Cutler, our quarterback, leading us," he said. "I wouldn't ask for any other quarterback. I'm excited about him going into that second year with Mike and seeing those improvements on the offensive side."

Smith said the Super Bowl champion Packers have set the bar for his team.

"We realize we have the Super Bowl champs in our division, and we're looking up to them," he said. "We're looking forward to this next year of trying to get ourselves in position where we can hold up the Lombardi trophy."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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