INDIANAPOLIS -- Phew. I just spent the past few hours collecting interviews with a number of NFC North newsmakers, from Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith to Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson to Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. I've got posts upcoming based on all of those interviews, and we'll move in chronological order.
Smith said his two-year contract extension, which carries through the 2013 season, is "exactly what I wanted." But I thought the most interesting portion of his media availability came when he was asked about something else he clearly wants: The return of center Olin Kreutz, who is a pending free agent.
"Every day I've been here, Olin Kreutz has been here," Smith said. "I believe in him. He's the anchor of our team. He's our team leader. Not offense, defense or special teams. Our team leader. So he's very important to what we do. I know he's without a contract right now, but I think Olin knows that he's wanted. It's not really even a question."
Smith then turned to a reporter and said: "Are you married? And your wife knows that she's wanted? Mine does. Olin knows that we need him."
Indeed, Smith has always been loyal to his core group of veteran players. And regardless, it makes sense on a number of levels to bring back Kreutz. He will turn 34 in June and has pushed his body through 13 NFL seasons, but the Bears' offensive line is probably too unsettled to absorb a transition at center. Smith said no determination has been made about the future position of tackle/guard Chris Williams, and any number of positions could change based on the draft and free agency. Stay tuned.