NFL: Grossman back in uniform

Lake Forest –It's been 14 months since Rex Grossman suited up for a regular season game. An ankle injury has sidelined him since Aug. 12, but he will be in uniform against Tampa Bay.

Grossman missed the final 13 games of the 2004 season with a torn right ACL. After being ready for mini-camp this season, he suffered a fractured ankle on Aug. 12 in a preseason game against the Rams.

Early in his rehab, Grossman targeted Sunday's game for his return from a fractured ankle suffered on Aug. 12.

"Just to suit up again will be milestone for me," Grossman said. "Just to get back out there. It's a goal that I set for myself to be back for this game and I'm achieving that goal, which is fun. Just to get back out there with the guys and just to play football again is fun."

Grossman will be the third quarterback for the time being. Holding a clipboard is something the former first round pick hasn't had to do since his rookie season.

"Yeah, it has been a while since I've been healthy and not played," Grossman said. "But I'm just glad to contribute in any way I can right now just trying to get to 100 percent and just join the team really and not be on the training room staff."

Head coach Lovie Smith implied that it would take something drastic to happen to see six-foot-1, 217-pounder on the field against the Buccaneers.

"Rex is moving into our number three slot," Smith said. "If the game would get out of hand, our second quarterback would play then."

At this point Grossman said he feels 85-90 percent and should be completely healthy before the end of the season.

"He's not there yet, but he's close," said offensive coordinator Ron Turner. "Ahead of where he was a week ago and a week ago he was ahead of where he was a week before that, so he's getting better."

Grossman added, "I feel like I can do about everything I'm not as quick. The agility is not quite as good as it would have been, but that will come in time with more strength and just being out there more."

As his mobility improves Grossman will likely assume the backup role currently held by Jeff Blake. Despite not being able to practice for more than three months, Turner said some things just come natural to Grossman.

"His accuracy is great, he could probably not throw for six months and his accuracy would be good," Turner said.

But there are no plans to make a switch at top spot with the team riding a six-game winning streak. Kyle Orton will start his 11th game on Sunday, which is five more than Grossman has in three injury riddled seasons with the Bears.

"The guy that has been quarterbacking our football team, that's what we're really excited about and what Kyle has been able to do," Smith said. "He had his best game this past week and he will just continue to grow also."

As for Grossman, he's staying away from any quarterback controversy.

"I think he's been doing just fine," Grossman said of Orton. "He's been doing what the coaches have asked him to do and I've been there telling him what I see on the sidelines, but he's gotten those things under control and understands what's going on out there."

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