Notebook: Orton has Backing of Top Target

Chicago - Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad would have none of the talk that Kyle Orton can't succeed as starter because he's a rookie

"This game is so funny, it doesn't really matter what year you are,'' Muhammad said. "If you have the poise and the confidence and you come in and make plays you can be a rookie or a 10-year veteran or whatever the case is and it doesn't matter how old you are.

"He's played well. Kyle has played well. The coaches definitely have a decision to make about how they're going to approach this.''

He sees no lack of confidence in Orton.

"He's a confident kid, borderline cocky and that's always good in this business because you've got to have a little swagger about yourself.''

Nothing New to Report
There was no progress reported by either side in the Bears' talks with the agent for running back Cedric Benson.

Nor was there word that talks would resume.

The holdout by the draft's fourth overall pick reached 34 days on Friday. Cedric Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, said the next move belongs to the Bears.

Road to Recovery
The Bears likely will not make a decision on whether to put Rex Grossman on injured reserve, rendering him inactive all season, until after the regular season begins.

If they ever sign running back Cedric Benson, the league will grant them a temporary roster exemption which they could use to keep Grossman available for a while.

Grossman has been unavailable to comment on his health status since undergoing surgery to repair his broke left ankle. However, prior to Friday night's game he commented in a phone interview on WBBM-AM 780, the team's flagship station, that he anticipated he'd be available to play by the Dec. 4 home game against the Green Bay Packers. He's shooting or a Thanksgiving weekend return, though.

This would leave Grossman available for five games. It would likely make the Bears' decision on keeping him active a tough one, because their roster exemption for Benson would not last this long.

Grossman said he expects to hear plenty of criticism because he's suffered injuries three times in three NFL seasons.

"I'm not naive," he said. "I know I'm going to get the injury prone tag. That's fine."

Around the League
The Bears have been linked in the rumor mill to two veteran quarterbacks. NFL.Com has reported they have an interest in Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback Jon Kitna. Various published reports have linked them to an interest in Pittsburgh Steelers backup Tommy Maddox.

The Steelers situation has more potential. Besides Maddox, they have veteran Charlie Batch as well as Brian St. Pierre behind Ben Roethlisberger.

The Bengals have only Kitna, former Bear Craig Krenzel and Casey Bramlet on their roster behind starter Carson Palmer.

Dirty Laundry
With a preseason high 17 penalties for 129 yards, the Bears now have 52 preseason penalties for 382 yards.

"On the other side, penalties, we had entirely too many,'' Smith said. "Especially in the fourth game of the preseason. We have to do something about that.''

Ins & Outs
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris left Friday's game at halftime with what was termed a "chest strain." Bears punter Brad Maynard saw his first action of preseason after suffering a strained calf muscle early in training camp. . . . Safety Mike Brown did not play due to an excused absence for personal reasons. Todd Johnson replaced him.


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