The Bears made several lineup changes last week, but coach Lovie Smith would not commit to any of them again this week, whether it was Chris Williams playing left tackle, Kevin Shaffer on the right side, Jamar Williams returning at linebacker or the safety pairing of Kevin Payne and Al Afalava.

The Bears made several lineup changes last week, but coach Lovie Smith would not commit to any of them again this week, whether it was Chris Williams playing left tackle, Kevin Shaffer on the right side, Jamar Williams returning at linebacker or the safety pairing of Kevin Payne and Al Afalava.

“A lot of the changes we’ve had to make are based on injuries,” Smith said. “This late in the year, you have to work different combinations. I’m just glad we have guys who will give us a good combination.”

Smith said the Bears were pleased with Chris Williams’ first start at left tackle.

“It didn’t surprise us,” Smith said. “We drafted him to eventually play that position. He looked comfortable there. He did a lot of good things for his first time out, but has a long ways to go.”

Pace holds the key
The status of Chris Williams and Kevin Shaffer may depend on Orlando Pace. The veteran left tackle was limited in practice Wednesday after missing last week with a groin injury. “I assume he’ll be ready to go. It wasn’t a season-ending injury or anything like that,” Smith said.

Devin Hester (calf) and Hunter Hillenmeyer (groin) missed practice during a light snow Wednesday, while Briggs, Tommie Harris (knee), Israel Idonije (knee) and Pace were limited.
“The conditions weren’t ideal; we were a little cautious with them,” Smith said.

For the Packers, Chicago’s foe Sunday, linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) and Ryan Pickett (hamstring) were held out of practice. Notables that were limited included All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder), rookie No. 1 pick B.J. Raji (ankle) at nose guard and offensive tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring).

Cutler his own critic
When asked how he’s improved since throwing four interceptions in the season opener at Green Bay, quarterback Jay Cutler replied: “That’s up for debate.”

When pressed, he said he’s improved in many areas, but understands that many critics will feel differently.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s expected at this point. With our record and the way I’ve played and the way we’ve played offensively, there is definitely going to be some debate about it.”

Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.