Krenzel's Unlikely Rise

Lake Forest - Quarterbacks drafted in the fifth round don't count on playing as rookies in the NFL -- unless they wind up in Chicago.

"I wouldn't have expected it," said Bears rookie Craig Krenzel. "But at same time, anything can happen. I knew that coming into the year. I had a bunch of people tell me before I got here that in four of the last five years, the No. 3 quarterback has ended up having to play."

Actually, the Bears' No. 3 quarterback has been forced into action in seven of the past eight seasons. Krenzel, the Bears' fifth-round pick, is preparing for that possibility Sunday at noon in Tampa against the Bucs. He started the season No. 3 but is in his third week as the No. 2 quarterback and is getting almost as many snaps in practice as struggling starter Jonathan Quinn.

"When I was No. 3, there's a small possibility you may play," Krenzel said. "Then when you're the No. 2 guy, that possibility obviously increases. And with what has happened, they're saying that I'm that much closer. "It's definitely exciting. I'm very anxious if that opportunity comes to go out and do whatever I can to help this team win."

Quinn is still expected to make his third straight start on Sunday in Tampa against the 1-5 Bucs, but if he plays at the same level as last week, Krenzel will get the call. Quinn knows he has to play better to keep the job, and he said the practice reps he's losing to Krenzel won't adversely affect his preparation.

Quinn even said he understood the universally harsh treatment he's received since Sunday.

"Anytime you lose it's not fun," he said. "I beat myself up pretty hard after the loss and didn't feel good, just like the rest of the team. I'm sure no one felt good after that game, and I'm no different. I've gotten over the game, and now I'm trying to focus on Tampa Bay and just prepare myself the best I can to go out and beat Tampa Bay."

According to coach Lovie Smith, not much separated Quinn and Krenzel at Wednesday's practice.

"They both looked pretty good," Smith said. "Both made some good throws. Both completed a lot of good passes. There's not going to be a big separation the first day."

Ideally, Krenzel would be given more time to master the Bears' thick playbook before he has to run the offense in a game. But he is intelligent enough to have earned an undergraduate degree in molecular genetics at Ohio State, so the mental part of football isn't expected to stump him.

"It hasn't been easy due to the volume of the offense and terminology," Krenzel said. "But I have a good grasp of it on paper, on the chalkboard and in the playbook. I understand everything. Now it's going to be translating that and carrying it over onto the field."

In other words, doing it without thinking about it. Calling the play in the huddle without hesitation. Third-year quarterback Chad Hutchinson, the Bears' third-string quarterback, compared learning the verbiage of a new offense to learning a new language.

"That's the biggest hurdle, is getting to that point where you can fluently speak

The terminology and call a play on reflex without having to actually think what you need to say," Krenzel said. "When you get to the point where you can speak the language easier, it's a lot easier to think of your progressions, and your protections."

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