Bears Add Blake to QB Mix

Bourbonnais - After Rex Grossman went down, GM Jerry Angelo said the Bears would go with the hand they dealt themselves at quarterback. However, it took just two days for the team to add a veteran signal caller, signing Jeff Blake to a one-year deal.

The 34-year-old will begin his career in Chicago behind Chad Hutchinson and Kyle Orton.

"Right now our top two guys will be Chad and Kyle and then Jeff will work in after that," said head coach Lovie Smith. "As we've said all along we feel real good about the guys we have here right now. We're going to bring him in as another quarterback that we'll be working with and really kind of go from there."

The Bears flirted with several veteran quarterbacks in the off-season, including Brad Johnson, Kurt Warner and Jay Fiedler. Each candidate decided to sign elsewhere.

Blake has started 100 games over the course of his 14-year career. The Bears mark his seventh different team that he has suited up for, including the fourth straight year of joining a new team.

A sixth-round pick from East Carolina by the Jets in 1992, Blake, spent two years in New York. He also played for Cincinnati (1994-99), New Orleans (2000-01), Baltimore (2002), Arizona (2003) and Philadelphia (2004).

Before Blake agreed to a one-year deal at $800,000, the Bear quarterbacks collectively had 22 games of NFL experience. Kurt Kittner would have moved up to the third spot on the depth chart, but the Bears wanted to add experience to the position.

With the number of systems Blake has had to learn, he should be able to pickup Ron Turner's offense rather quickly.

"Our terminology has a lot of west coast terminology and elements to it," Turner said. "Through the years you put a lot of stuff in it that you do, so it's not identical for anyone coming in they'll have to learn it."

Blake has not participated in any type of off-season program and has tried to condition on his own, which means the rest of the preseason will be used to get in football shape. He could report to Bourbonnais as soon as Monday.

He threw just 37 passes behind Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer last year for the Philadelphia Eagles. His last regular staring gig came in Arizona, when he started 13 games for the Cardinals in 2003. He went 3-10 as the starter and for the only time in his career that he threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13).

The six-foot-1, 223-pounder went to a Pro Bowl in 1995, when he threw for 3,822 yards and 28 TDs for the Bengals. He has a 77.9 career passer rating with 133 touchdowns, 21,656 passing yards and 99 interceptions.

Chad Hutchinson worked with the starting offense during Sunday's practice with Kyle Orton taking the second team snaps. The Bears are not expecting Blake to come in to challenge Hutchinson for the starting job.

"He's our starter," Smith said of Hutchinson. "It's as simple as that. He's our guy and we're going from there, but you need three quarterbacks. Chad isn't looking over his shoulder. He's our guy and we can't wait to see him lead us."

Rex Grossman will have surgery on his broken left ankle on Monday. He is expected to miss three to four months, but a more accurate timeline can be given following the procedure.


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