- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 11, 2015

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - The rebuilding of the Chicago Bears under new coach John Fox started with the signing linebacker Pernell McPhee, as well as the expected return of quarterback Jay Cutler.

New Bears general manager Ryan Pace and Fox for the first time confirmed Tuesday that their plans for rebounding from a 5-11 season under Marc Trestman include Cutler.

“We’re moving forward with Jay Cutler as our starting quarterback,” Pace said. “We’ve spent time with him on a personal basis. It’s just getting to know him as a person, like I said initially (at the NFL combine). Just being through with all of that, that helped us come to this conclusion.”

Pace said the Bears did not attempt to trade Cutler, but he regarded such matters as internal and did not want to discuss it in detail.

“He’s a good football player, and going forward, we felt this was the best for us, and quite frankly, it’s the best situation for him, too. So that’s where we’re at,” Pace said.

Cutler led the NFL in turnovers last season with 24, including 18 interceptions.

Fox sees Cutler as capable of improving even though he’s been in the league since 2006, continues making the same mistakes and has been with the Bears under three head coaches and five offensive coordinators.

“I think the biggest thing for me is, is a guy willing to work?” Fox said. “And if a guy will work at it, he can get better. If he’s not willing to work at it he’s not getting better. In this league you don’t stay the same - you’re either getting better or getting worse.

“And so what I saw and learned of him is intelligence, he’s willing to work at it, so I think he’s capable of improving.”

The Bears evaluated tape on Cutler from his first year in the league with Denver to last season, and met with Cutler in determining which way to go.

“This was a real thorough, thorough process with a lot of people involved, not just me and John,” Pace said, pointing out that quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains and offensive coordinator Adam Gase also weighed in on Cutler.

Fox added that past Bears offensive struggles sometimes couldn’t be traced back to Cutler alone.

“It’s usually not one guy,” he said. “This is the ultimate of team games. It is a team game. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on offense or defense, your supporting cast, the way you approach it, and we’re in a production-based business. So we’ll see how that works going forward.”

Fox said the decision to bring back Jimmy Clausen as Cutler’s backup was due in part to his own past experience in Carolina. They were more vague on another move made on offense - trading wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Jets along with a seventh-round draft pick for a fifth-round pick.

“He’s a good football player, and going forward, we felt this was the best for us, and quite frankly, it’s the best situation for him, too,” Pace said.

One of the Bears biggest problems since the end of the Lovie Smith era has been a defense that dipped to 30th in the league the past two seasons. But the move to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio requires players of a different type than they’ve used in a 4-3.

Acquiring McPhee for a reported $39 million over five years began that process. He’s been a defensive end and linebacker in a 3-4 and a defensive end in the 4-3. He’ll be a linebacker for the Bears.

“I wanted to come and be a part of bringing that tradition back,” McPhee said. “You now, a hard-nosed playing defense, play with violence, play with an attitude, play with a swag. Just go out there and dominant the game.”

McPhee played behind Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil in Baltimore and had 7 1/2 sacks last season.

“I don’t think it’s a scheme-thing where he’s getting this production,” Pace said. “He’s beating his man one on one.”

The Bears continue to look for answers at safety.

Part of the defensive restructuring will be to move defensive end Lamarr Houston to linebacker. He is rehabbing from an ACL tear.

“There’s guys, just because they’ve been in a 4-3, that can still play in a 3-4,” Pace said.



AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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