Grossman in a Holding Pattern

Lake Forest - In individual drills during Wednesday's practice inside the Walter Payton Center, Rex Grossman displayed quicker footwork and better agility than at any time since he suffered a fractured left ankle on Aug. 12.

"I expected to get better every week, and I've made improvements the last month each week," Grossman said before practice. "I don't think this week will be any different."

For the first time since he was hurt, Grossman is not on the weekly injury report, and he hasn't lost any arm strength, but his status as the No. 3 quarterback has not been upgraded.

"Really nothing has changed there," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He's still getting a lot of reps, (No. 2) Jeff (Blake) is getting reps, and we're trying to evaluate where Rex is. He's getting better everyday. (But) as of right now, I would say, 'No change.'"

But that could change before game time if Grossman's mobility improves from last week, when his ability to escape the pocket was questionable at best.

"Probably late in the week we'll talk about it and see where he is," Turner said. "He looked better (Wednesday). He's moving a lot better. He's looking more and more comfortable."

Grossman said last week was a thrill just to suit up, even if he didn't get in the game.

"Even though I was third string, I was pumped up," he said. "I was excited for the game, just to be back out there and back out there with your teammates. It was just fun to be out there."

Trophy Hunting
Defensive end Alex Brown earned his second career NFC defensive player of the week award for last week's two sacks, four pass breakups and one forced fumble.

"It means a lot to me," said Brown, who said he's having the most fun of his four-year career. "We're winning. You can't have fun if you're 5-11 (2004) or 4-12 (2002). There's no fun in that. We're 8-3, and it's a lot of fun."

It was the second consecutive honor for a Bears defender. Cornerback Nathan Vasher earned defensive honors in Week 11. Brown's first award came last season, when he had four sacks against the Giants on Nov. 7.

It's the fifth straight week a Bear has either won the Defensive or Special Teams Player of the Week honors and sixth time overall this season.

Retirement Party
Smith has always expressed great admiration for Packers quarterback Brett Favre, but that only goes so far.

Smith was asked if he would be sorry to see Favre go when he retires.

"What do you think?"Smith said with a smile. "He's a good football player. He's meant an awful lot to our game. He's a great competitor; good for our division. Brett has had his share of success against us and other people. Once he leaves, it will be a sad day, but I'll call him and thank him for leaving."

I Didn't Do It
Defensive end Wale Ogunleye can't be blamed for the Bears' shortcomings against the Packers. He's played in the rivalry just once, and the Bears won that game 21-10 in Week 2 last season. Ogunleye was on injured reserve for last season's finale with the Packers, but he's heard all the talk about the Bears' losing streak at home against the Packers and quarterback Brett Favre's 12-1 career record as a visitor against the Bears.

"I haven't been a part of that, so I could care less about how many he's won," Ogunleye said. "I'm just hoping that he's not going to be able to get this next one."

Health Beat
RB Cedric Benson ran for the first time since suffering a sprained right knee on Nov. 13 but did not practice Wednesday. He is out for this week but might be back the following Sunday.

The four other Bears on the injury report are all probable: CB Jerry Azumah (hip), G Ruben Brown (pectoral), C Olin Kreutz (elbow) and DT Tommie Harris (knee).

Roster Move
The Bears signed wide receiver Craig Bragg to the practice squad. The 6-1, 195-pound rookie was a sixth round draft choice by the Green Bay Packers.

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