Grossman: 'I still love Chicago'
A first-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Florida, Grossman overcame injuries early in his career to lead the Bears to a 13-3 record in 2006, but even though he was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, fans made him out to be the villain down the stretch and placed a lot of the blame on his shoulders for losing Super Bowl XLI 29-17 to the Colts – his interception in the fourth quarter was returned 56 yards by Kelvin Hayden for a touchdown to seal Chicago's fate.
Calling it "crazy" that he'll now face the team for which he spent six years in and out of the starting lineup, Grossman admitted the media microscope he was put under as a Bear was at times awfully intense.
"It is different," Grossman said Wednesday via conference call at Halas Hall. "The passion, the tradition and the whole deal is exciting to be a part of, especially when you get a good team and you're on a Super Bowl run like we were. Everything gets magnified. Everybody's involved, watching and paying attention, especially when you have a good team. Everything is moving along, and you have a lot of expectations. It is one of the biggest football towns in the NFL. Going to Houston after Chicago was night and day. They're obviously a young franchise. But to go from Houston to Chicago, it almost didn't feel like the NFL. Washington is a lot more like Chicago. This is a very similar setup."
Bears fans had no problem showering Grossman with boos in his home stadium when he didn't play well, so No. 8 is expecting more of the same now that he'll be wearing the opponent's uniform.
"I don't know," he said. "It's hard to anticipate, but I would assume it's a boo. I don't think it should be, but you know how it is there. You never know what is going to happen. I've seen former players come in there, and they've usually gotten booed. Either way, I don't care. I still love Chicago. I love the city, the tradition, the team and everything about it. I'm very proud to be a part of it."
While Grossman still remembers the highlights of the 2006 season fondly, he said the negative aspects of his time with the Bears are "just a blur."
Shanahan: Cutler 'such a tough guy'
One of the reasons Cutler appeared to be such a top-notch passer just three years into the league was the instruction he got from Mike Shanahan, who was the coach in Denver at the time but now runs the Redskins – they just happen to be Chicago's opponent in Week 7.
Right away, Shanahan knew he had a good one and benched 2006 Pro Bowler Jake Plummer in favor of a rookie Cutler 11 games into the 2006 season.
"He was the SEC player of the year coming from Vanderbilt, where they didn't have the supporting cast that a lot of teams had," said Shanahan of Cutler. "He'd stand in the pocket and make all the throws. Obviously, he had a very strong arm and could concentrate down the field and make all the throws that pro quarterbacks know they have to make."
After missing Week 5 at Carolina with post-concussion symptoms, Cutler told media members that he had never suffered a concussion before, but it was later reported he had at least one in Denver and probably a few more in college.
"He's such a tough guy, you don't even know when he's got a concussion unless it's extreme," Shanahan said. "It's never been a concern of mine."
An Oak Park native, Shanahan went on to say he grew up a big fan of the Bears and will "continue to be, except for this weekend."
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Conference Call: Grossman, Shanahan
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