Worst kept secret

With Chris Chandler not completely healthy and Kordell Stewart coming off his best performance of the year, Dick Jauron made the obvious decision Friday.

As expected, Coach Jauron named Stewart as the starting quarterback for Sunday's game at Green Bay. Chandler is slated to backup Stewart, while Rex Grossman will remain #3 on the depth chart.

Stewart filled in for Chandler last week against Arizona and led the team for the second half against the Denver Broncos on November 23 after Chandler was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

On the injury front, both CB R.W. McQuarters and SS Mike Green were active in practice and were upgraded today from questionable to probable. RG Chris Villarrial was downgraded to doubtful. RT Aaron Gibson, who injured his knee during the Arizona game, practiced on Friday, but remains a game time decision.

"Things went very well. We felt comfortable with that and decided that's the way we want to go into this game," Jauron said of his decision to start Stewart.

After starting the first five games of the season, Stewart remained on the sidelines for five weeks. Stewart then led the team to consecutive victories during the past two weeks. A noticeable improvement recently has been the lack of turnovers. In the last six quarters with Stewart at the helm the Bears have just one turnover and that came on a fake field goal attempt.

"You never want to lose the ball, so Kordell is a big plus," Jauron said. "Any time that you don't turn the ball over, and particularly when you can make them turn the ball over, it significantly increases your chances to win. Kordell has been working on that and obviously he is becoming more comfortable with what we have been doing."

After receiving the starting call last night, Stewart said that he made no changes in his usual game day preparations.

"I'll just keep doing exactly what I've been doing for the past umpteen weeks," Stewart said. "Even when Chris was playing, I always approached it as if I was going to have the opportunity to play. I tend to anticipate. I approach each game as if I was going to start regardless."

Stewart has always felt that one of his strengths is the ability to have a positive attitude whether or not he is slated to be part of a starting lineup.

"It's all about the ability to persevere through the tough times," Stewart said. "Despite what might be said from the outside and with things not going your way at a given moment, it is important to stand strong and understand what you are playing for. It's a matter of self-respect. It's a long 16 game season and if you're waiting to play, it can seem a lot longer. Now that the moment is here for me, things have become a lot more exciting."

As the team prepares to head up to Green Bay, anticipation is building on the part of both players and coaching staff. Stewart, however, still feels a sense of calm and is taking a ‘business as usual' approach. The veteran quarterback seems to feel most comfortable when he's able to stick to his routine and not get caught up in what he calls the ‘rah rah stuff.'

"At this point, I view every game as an entire season. Each one is complete in its individual context. We play, then we move on to the next one. It's good to just go out there then let the chips fall where they may. To take a longer view than that can be somewhat distracting."

What about the Bears-Packers rivalry and the mystique of Lambeau Field?

"I've played there before, it was in 1995," Stewart said. "The venue is not unfamiliar to me. It can be a tough place to play. The fans love their Packers and they will be sure to let you know that. What is different this time for me is that there is a lot at stake. The team has played so hard to get to the point where this contest really does make a difference. I'm really looking forward to this. There's no place that I would rather be then out there right in the thick of things."

Change on the horizon
SS Bobby Gray may keep the starting job even with Green ready to play this week. Gray has started four of the past six games and made an impact with his heavy hitting, something lacking in Green's game.

"They'll both end up playing a lot," Jauron said Friday. "We're really happy with the way Bobby has played, so we'll see how that works out when we get toward game time."

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