- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery prefers to discuss a potential contract extension for head coach Lovie Smith at the end of the season, as opposed to now with the team in the midst of a 4-1 start.
Asked to shed light on a radio report that the organization and Smith had begun discussions about a new contract for Smith, the general manager smiled and quipped, "That's an interesting word -- 'light' -- because I kind of took that lighthearted when I heard it."
"I said, 'Geez, even if that were true, when would we have gotten that done?'" Emery asked. "Coach Smith is very focused on improving his team on a daily basis (and) all the things he does. In terms of myself, (my) mindset is with the personnel group and working with coaches and making sure we have the right people on the roster on a daily basis, going out to colleges, doing visitations, getting ready for the next NFL draft. There (are) not enough hours in the day to have those kinds of conversations. That's pretty much where we're at."
In his ninth season as head coach of the Bears, Smith is the second-longest tenured head coach with his current team in the NFC and the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NFL. Smith signed a three-year extension in the spring of 2011 that goes through 2013.
Teams looking to retain their head coaches typically don't let them enter the final year of their contracts, and it doesn't appear the Bears are inclined to do so with Smith, who is 75-58 overall with three NFC North titles, a pair of NFC Championship Game appearances and one berth in the Super Bowl.
Emery expressed support for Smith and optimism about the team's 4-1 start as it goes into its week off.
"He takes great ownership for this team," Emery said. "He keeps pushing all the right buttons, not only coaching his players and interrelating with his players, but coaching his coaches (and) working with us in personnel."
Still, the timing isn't right for making a move contractually with Smith, according to Emery.
"My preference is to do these things at the end of the year," Emery said. "There may be a situation where it's to the club's advantage and the players' advantage to do something during the season. But my preference, and most often, it's better to wait until the end of the year, until you have a full evaluation. Moving forward, that applies not only to our players, but to our head coach and our coaching staff."
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