Teacher's Pet

It's a good bet Rex Grossman won't be giving an apple to Steve Spurrier Sunday. The two will likely greet before the game, but the teacher wants to beat his pupil and the pupil wants to prove something to his mentor.

Rex Grossman played for two seasons under Spurrier at the University of Florida. A runner-up for the Heisman as a sophomore, Grossman played his junior season under Ron Zook, while Steve Spurrier made the jump from college to the pros when he took over as coach of the Washington Redskins.

Grossman will start just his second career game Sunday against Spurrier's Redskins at Soldier Field. Spurrier, who's had two losing seasons in Washington, said he'll return next season, but nothing's definite in the NFL these days.

"I think it's kind of a coincidence that he kind of helped me get here to this point and I'm going up against him my second start ever in the NFL," Grossman said Wednesday. "It's exciting. If he was the defensive coordinator, it'd be real exciting. But he's totally offensive-minded, so I'm really going up against the Washington defense and just trying to do what we can do on offense to beat them."

Even though he left Florida a year early, Grossman still ranks third on the school's all-time passing list, trailing only former Bears Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews.

"He's got a little more arm strength than probably any of the quarterbacks we've had down there," Spurrier said of Grossman. "He can zing it in there and he can make all the throws. That's probably the biggest reason."

Grossman, who played at Bloomington South (Ind.) High School and led his team to the Class 5A state championship as a senior in 1998, had chances to go to many other colleges, but settled on Florida and Spurrier. Spurrier, a former Heisman winner while a quarterback at Florida, brought the "Fun 'N' Gun" offense to his alma mater and Grossman relished in it. Grossman threw for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns, and led the country in passing efficiency, yards passing per game and yards per play his sophomore year.

Spurrier said the weather in Chicago, unlike the conditions for guys like Peyton Manning (Colts) and Marc Bulger (Rams) in dome stadiums, might make it tough for Grossman to turn the Bears' offense loose.

"Rex is potentially an outstanding NFL quarterback," Spurrier said, "but as far as a whole bunch of passing yards that's hard to do in inclement weather."

Grossman only threw for 157 yards and no touchdowns against the Vikings in his debut, but he didn't throw any interceptions, either. The Redskins are tied for 21st in the NFL in total defense. They've allowed an average of 332 yards a game and are 27th against the run. Washington's pass defense is 13th in the league and giving up 193 yards a game.

The Redskins have two losing seasons in Spurrier's two years and a 12-18 record. Spurrier was 122-27-1 in 12 seasons at Florida, including a national championship in 1996.

Grossman would like to send Spurrier and his team back to D.C. with a Christmas present of his own -- a loss.

"I feel like it's been a media circus ever since I started my first game at Florida. It's crazy down there and it's equally as crazy up here," Grossman said. "It's been fun. I don't really get caught up in that stuff, I'm just trying to worry about the Redskins right now.

"I haven't really stopped to breathe yet. I want to finish out these two games and re-evaluate everything."

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