Cause for Concern

On of the many unknowns for the Bears as they head into Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings is the health status of their offensive line. Both LT Mike Gandy and RG Chris Villarrial remain questionable and will be "game day" decisions according to head coach Dick Jauron.

The possible replacements have a total of one NFL start between them, which is troublesome but even more so because Rex Grossman is making his pro debut.

"If Qasim Mitchell ends up starting in place of one of our offensive veterans, that will be his first NFL game experience," Dick Jauron said. "We have complete confidence in Qasim. He wouldn't be playing at this level if he didn't have the ability. In this particular instance, however, we need to be absolutely certain that our quarterback is protected."

Terrence Metcalf could also see action early on, a scenario that Jauron is comfortable with.

"Terry has been stepping up just the way we thought he would," Jauron said. "He has a lot of natural ability and we like what we've seen from him so far."

When Jauron was asked if he was concerned about the ability of the Vikings defense to concentrate their efforts on Grossman, Jauron conceded that if the situation were reversed, that's certainly what the Bears would attack.

"When you are in a football game you're always going to want to hone in our your opponent's weak spot," Jauron said. "Sure, the Vikings will be prepared for inexperienced players on the offensive line. They'll also be looking for Rex. We have to be sure that things are in place so that Grossman has adequate time to do things with the ball."

Mitchell, for one, is ready to go. The young tackle from North Carolina A & T who was signed by the Bears on September 16, after being waived by Cleveland, cuts an imposing figure at 6-foot-6 355 lb. and can't wait to see game action.

"I'm really excited about this. This is what I've been waiting for," he said. "It's the opportunity to show the coaches what I am capable of doing. My hope is that this will give me an edge going into training camp next year. If they see that I can produce, my chances should be a lot better for having a productive role with this team in the future."

The Bears held practice indoors on Friday, not so much for protection from the cold, but to give Grossman the chance to become accustomed to crowd noise.

"We do use the noise machines when we are outside, but it's even more effective in here," Jauron said. "Rex needs to understand how to be heard during a game."

So far, so good according to the head coach.

"Grossman's had a fine practice today. He's been quite adept at implementing the Bears offense all week," Jauron said. "Rex is a smart player who understands the game. He knows that the pressure is on, but he also feels that he can handle the scrutiny."

Grossman had intensive one on one time with veteran quarterbacks Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler and has been perfecting the fine points of his game with QB coach Greg Olson.

"The guys are behind Re," Jauron said. "The players are doing whatever they can to ease his transition. They understand that the more confidence that Rex has going into Sunday's game, the better it will be for the team."

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