After months of waiting patiently on the sidelines, Rex Grossman got the call he'd been hoping for from head coach Dick Jauron. While there might be those on the team that might not be happy about a rookie quarterback finishing the season Grossman definitely has his supporters.
"I was really excited," Grossman said. "It wasn't something that I was expecting."
With the spotlight on the young QB, members of the team are voicing their support. Second year DE Alex Brown, who played with Rex at Florida, was one of the first to speak about the dawn of the Grossman era.
"I imagine that he'll be a little nervous at first, but he'll get the hang to it pretty fast" Brown said. "After all, it's just football. Throwing and catching, doing things right and on time. It's not really that difficult, especially if you have put the amount of time into it that Rex has."
Brown felt that Grossman's sense of the game and natural ability should serve him well in the NFL.
"The speed of the game might take a little adjustment," Brown said. "It is quite different from college. This is something that you can't actually experience until you are out there in a game situation. He'll probably make some mistakes. All of us have done that at one time or another. But that is how you learn and develop as a professional football player."
For the team, Grossman is somewhat of an unknown quantity at this point. Brown's hope is that Grossman will thrive at the professional level.
"Of course, I know that this is a whole different thing for him," Brown said." If Rex goes out there and throws four interceptions during the first quarter, then it will be a real setback. If, however, he throws four touchdown passes, Rex could be the next big thing for this team."
The realization that the rookie will be starting had a particularly strong impact on fellow members of this year's freshman football class.
"I couldn't be happier for Rex," said WR Bobby Wade. ‘We have great communication. That's been the situation since we first met in training camp. I can't even begin to imagine the pressure he must be feeling right now. He's such a skilled player and I'm sure that he will be able to handle the expectations when he is out there on the field."
"We've been friends since the first day we met "Gage said. "All of the rookies feel that way. Rex generates a confidence that has an effect on the entire team."
Gage, like Wade, has stepped into the lineup and has become a productive part of the offense. Known for his ability to make acrobatic catches, Gage is looking forward to capitalizing on Grossman's ability to open up the field with the long ball.
"Rex has unbelievable arm strength and velocity," Gage said. "The big play is his favorite play. That doesn't mean that Rex can't grind it out when necessary. He is very versatile that way, but if the situation calls for something dramatic, Grossman's your man. The bottom line is that its time for Rex to get out there so we can see what he can do. "
What comes up most often in any discussion about Grossman's ability is the rookie's love for and understanding of the game.
‘I think Rex is unusual in that respect," Wade said. ‘His instincts are incredible. I'm not only talking about knowing the playbook. He has a feeling for the nuances of the game. That's something that can't be taught. You either have it or you don't. If it's this Sunday or a year from Sunday, he'll be good."
What impresses Bears players most is the fact that Grossman clearly enjoys his job. No matter what the situation, Grossman is affable and enthusiastic. His smile has become as much of a trademark as his tightly wound spiral. To outsiders, this confidence might be interpreted as cockiness, but for those on the team, it's' just the way Grossman expresses his love of the game.
"He never thinks about what he can't do, just what he can," Brown said. "That's been his personality as long as I've known him. If he throws a pass and it doesn't go where he wants it to, he'll just grin. It may seem that he's shrugging it off, or that he doesn't care but that's the way Rex handles things. He's always enjoying himself, but also he's always learning."
Even with the team mathematically out of contention for a playoff berth, there seems to be a renewed sense of energy and purpose at Halas Hall.
"There's the feeling that this is the beginning of a new season," Gage said. ‘These next three games should give us an idea of where the team is headed. Rex has been doing a fine job running the scout team all season. Now, we're thinking ‘Let's see where he can take us from here'. This is the time when good things can happen."