Grossman's Bad Break

ST. LOUIS _ It was the Edward Jones Dome, but it might as well have been the Metrodome.

Bears quarterback Rex Grossman was hauled off the Edward Jones Dome field on a cart Friday night, just like last year when his season ended Sept. 26 at the Metrodome with a torn right anterior cruciate knee ligament. Just like last year, it occurred on a new FieldTurf surface, on a play that looked innocent enough.

The difference: This time he suffered a broken left ankle which requires surgery and will keep him sidelined three to four months.

"It's just a tough, tough break for Rex," coach Lovie Smith said. "He worked awful hard to get himself in position to have a great year.

"I can't tell you how bad I feel for him."

It all made the Bears' 17-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams entirely insignificant.

All their offensive hopes in 2005 had rested on Grossman's return, and now he is gone -- again. The Bears will decide after the operation whether to put Grossman on injured reserve and render him ineligible to play this year.

"I'm just a positive person and I feel like this is just another bad thing to happen but I know great things are coming for me," Grossman said, as he leaned on crutches after the game. "I just feel it. I feel like I've been through hell and I'm going to come out of it and just good things are going to happen.

"No 'Why me." I mean, (blank) happens sometimes."

Grossman got hit four times after throwing Friday night. On the fourth one, he was taken down to the turf by Rams linebacker Trev Faulk as linebacker Jeremy Lloyd flew by and made brief contact, as well.

Grossman got helped back up quickly and tried walking. He couldn't, collapsed to the turf and then grabbed his left leg below his knee. A few minutes later, he was slamming his helmet against the cart as he was loaded onto it and taken from the field.

"I knew right away and I was kind of in denial to start with," Grossman said. "But I knew. I heard a pop. I tried to make it work. I was trying to walk it off. I knew right away."

Grossman, who finished the game 6-of-11 for 52 yards, already had the rap of being injury-prone when his first two seasons ended with injuries -- a torn tendon in a finger his rookie year and the knee ligament last year.

Now the questions about his toughness and the Bears' inability to find a veteran substitute are certain to resurface.

Chad Hutchinson takes over as the Bears' starting quarterback. He has a career passer rating of 69.1, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games.

This past off-season, general manager Jerry Angelo had the option of signing either Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson or Jay Fiedler to compete with Grossman for the starting spot, but opted to stick with Hutchinson.

Angelo said after the game that he's not questioning his own decision, but he'll search waivers and sort through free agents. However, he's not hopeful of anything there.

"Well look, but we're going with the hand that we dealt ourselves," Angelo said. "We said that going in, and we're comfortable with it."

Hutchinson threw only two passes Friday, completing both for 14 yards. Last year Hutchinson guided them to a 1-4 record in five starts late in the season. He had been 2-7 as a starter for the Dallas Cowboys in 2002.

"Hey, I'm ready to roll," Hutchinson said. "It's go time. I'm ready for it.

"I've been getting a lot of reps in practice so I'm a lot more comfortable in the offense right now. Whereas last year, I had none."

Angelo found a positive side to the injury.

"The good news is we have plenty of time almost a month, before our opener," he said. "We have (offensive coordinator) Ron Turner here and we have a lot of confidence in what he's doing as, well.

"Hey it's a tough blow. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it isn't. We'll get through it."

Angelo ruled out bringing back 15-year veteran Jeff George, who spent the last month here last year.

Angelo also could have drafted any quarterback from the college ranks except top pick Alex Smith, who went to San Francisco. He took unsigned running back Cedric Benson with the fourth pick and then selected Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton in the fourth round.

Orton led two Bears drives to field goals Friday in the second half. He completed 7-of-10 for 93 yards with an interception.

Also on the Bears' roster at quarterback are former Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner and second-year player Ryan Dinwiddie of Boise State. Kittner completed 6-of-15 for 78 yards but Dinwiddie didn't play.

The Bears were driving to their touchdown and a 7-0 lead at the time of Grossman's injury. They eventually got it on a nifty 9-yard TD run by running back Adrian Peterson.

Rams backup quarterback Jamie Martin led a 12-play 74-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, culminated by a 7-yard third-down TD toss to Kevin Curtis. Martin led another TD drive to start the third quarter, hitting Shaun McDonald for a 5-yard TD pass as Bears cornerback Rashied Davis slipped and fell on the coverage.

The Rams made it 17-7 on a 33-yard Remy Hamilton field goal with 2:44 left in the third quarter.

Bears kickers Nick Novak countered with 22-yard and 29-yard field goals in the final quarter.

"The team as a whole feels bad for Rex,'' Smith said. ""But as a team, we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves.

"We have a lot of football to play this year and we are a good football team. We are minus one of our players but we have a lot of other players who are going to step up to the plate.''

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