McCown thought he'd never play in NFL again

New Bears starting QB Josh McCown was out of football in 2010 and hadn't completed an NFL pass since 2009 before signing with the club. He admitted he never felt he'd be back in this position.

Before mopping up for Caleb Hanie last week, quarterback Josh McCown hadn't completed a pass in the NFL since 2009.

He hasn't started a game since 2007, when he started nine times for the Raiders.

But Sunday night, against the Packers at Lambeau Field, in the NFL's most-storied rivalry, the nine-year veteran will replace Hanie, who went 0-4 as a starter with a 41.8 passer rating after Jay Cutler was hurt on Nov. 20.

Considering that he was out of the NFL for the entire 2010 season and until Nov. 23 this year, McCown had no reason to believe he'd be playing quarterback for anyone in the NFL ever again.

"From where I was sitting, it didn't look like it was going to go down this road," said the 32-year-old McCown, who was coaching a high school football team when the Bears called him, following the fractured and dislocated wrist that sidelined Cutler.

McCown might be dealing with a slew of emotions in pregame preparations, but he realizes he has to keep his feelings under wraps.

"Just the excitement and the joy of being between the stripes again with the lights on, I think that first snap obviously will be exciting," he said. "But after that, you have a job to do, and that's to go play good football and help your team win. I don't want to get too excited and too amped up.

QB Josh McCown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

"Absolutely it's a cool story and cool moment. But at the same time, I'm a competitor. I want to win the game. I want to do right by the coaches and by the other 52 guys in the locker room. So it'll be exciting for a little bit, but we've got to get down to business."

When it comes to the business of winning football games, the Bears have been bankrupt since Cutler went out. A 7-3 team that looked like a lock to play in the postseason has become a beaten-down bunch with a deficient offense and a defense that isn't good enough to overcome the failings on the other side of the ball.

Coach Lovie Smith clearly has seen enough of Hanie to know that it was time to look at McCown.

"We just felt like we needed a boost," Smith said. "Caleb had played four games. I felt like that was enough to prove who you are, and if you could help our team win. Josh has been around, knows our offense, has been working against our defense for a long period of time. He's a veteran. We're just trying to give ourselves the best chance to win the game, and we feel that's the direction we need to go."

McCown takes the reins of an offense that has failed to accumulate 90 passing yards in any of its past three games. He'll be asked to jump-start the Bears' jalopy of an offense after less than a month in the system.

"It's not ideal," McCown admitted. "For anybody in any offense, it's not ideal to come in this late. But you understand where the other guys are at, and you've got to get yourself up to speed and get ready to play. Everybody expects you just to go play and play well, and that's the expectation for myself also, just to go out and do things to help us win a football game.

"If I keep looking back and saying, 'I only got here (four) weeks ago,' then it becomes an excuse and you leave an area for you not to play well because you're leaving something to fall back on. I'm trying to refuse to do that and just say, 'You have to play well. The team's depending on you.' That's my stance."

-Once the Bears are mathematically eliminated from the postseason -- probably after Sunday's game -- they could take a quick look at rookie QB Nathan Enderle. But offensive coordinator Mike Martz explains why it might not be in the best interests of the fifth-round pick to throw him into the fray this season, especially for this game.

"I think that he's got quite a future," Martz said. "The problem with Nate is, (because) Caleb didn't have preseason a year ago, he got injured, (so) we spent all our time with Caleb in the (2011) preseason. So Nate didn't get a whole lot of work. It's just too much of an unknown right now. We're trying to win. He'll have his time, I'm sure, but right now this is our best opportunity to win."


--WR Roy Williams has 27 catches for 419 yards in 10 career games vs. the Packers. Williams also has 27 catches for 366 yards this season in 13 games played with the Bears.

--RS/WR Devin Hester has averaged 15.5 yards in 23 career punt returns vs. the Packers with two touchdowns, but he's averaged just 20.2 yards on 12 career kickoff returns. Hester (ankle) did not practice Wednesday and will probably be a game-time decision.

--LB Brian Urlacher has five of his 21 career interceptions vs. the Packers.

--DE Julius Peppers has 10 sacks and, according to the Bears' statistics, 51 QB pressures, in addition to three forced fumbles.

--WR Dane Sanzenbacher, an undrafted rookie, is third among Bears who will play against the Packers with 21 receptions. Matt Forte and Johnny Knox are out.

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