Grossman having 'a blast'

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2007

By Rick Gano

Associated Press

MIAMI — Rex Grossman’s baseball cap was on backward and there was some beard stubble on his face. Less than a week before the Super Bowl, the Chicago Bears quarterback was relaxed and at ease.

“I’m having a blast,” he said Monday.

Grossman was thoughtful as he answered questions during a press conference. After all, there’s practically nothing he hasn’t been asked this season. He’s absorbed criticism, heard the calls to bench him and then did enough to help the Bears get to the NFL title game.

“When I was drafted, one of the first things that people told me was that the backup quarterback was the most popular player in town,” he joked.

Despite Grossman’s up-and-down season — excellent at times, abysmal at others — the Bears still won 15 games and earned a date with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. That’s where he’ll really be in the spotlight, playing the same position as Peyton Manning.

“I would love to play more consistent so that they know what to expect and everyone knows what to expect. I know I can do that,” Grossman said.

“In my first full season I’ve had about 12 games, including the playoffs, I’m really proud of. And about six — five or six — that I’m really not proud of. They were bad. I need to work on those six games, but I’m happy where I’m at. I’m at the Super Bowl.”

Grossman’s season bottomed out in the finale against the Packers when he had a quarterback rating of 0.0 and then admitted after the 26-7 loss he didn’t prepare as well as he should have.

He regrouped to pass for 282 yards in a win over Seattle in the Bears’ first playoff game. And he was just good enough in the NFC championship game against the Saints, hitting four straight passes during a key second-half scoring drive as the Bears made the Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years.

Grossman was the NFC offensive player of the month for September, and the Bears rushed to a quick start. Some even whispered he was on the path to an MVP season with the offense looking so potent.

But in a Monday night outing at Arizona, Grossman threw four interceptions before Chicago rallied to win 24-23. He also had shaky games in losses against the Dolphins and Patriots and another weak one against the Vikings, when his QB rating was 1.3.

Despite the boos raining down at Soldier Field and cries for backup Brian Griese increasing, Bears coach Lovie Smith stuck with Grossman.

“He has to deal with this just about every week,” Smith said. “I haven’t talked to Rex a lot about it. He’s a professional. He knows that most of you have certain questions that you want to ask him, that most of you would like to let him know exactly just how bad he is and things like that. He doesn’t buy into it; we don’t buy into it. We like him leading our team.”