BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears believe Matt Gutierrez could be exactly what they need at quarterback, even if he lacks much in the way of NFL credentials.
Gutierrez signed a one-year contract with the team and went through his first practice Wednesday, providing the Bears with a third quarterback for practice and possibly for Saturday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Soldier Field.
The Bears needed another quarterback after backup Caleb Hanie sustained a sprained right shoulder that could sideline him the remainder of the preseason.
Gutierrez spent 2007 and 2008 on the New England Patriots' roster and 2009 with the Kansas City Chiefs. The former Idaho State quarterback has thrown two NFL passes, completing both for 18 total yards.
Gutierrez had been pondering an offer to join the Omaha Nighthawks of the minor-league United Football League. Instead, he spent Wednesday afternoon trying to learn as much as possible about coordinator Mike Martz's Bears offense so he could take some of the throwing burden off starter Jay Cutler and third-string quarterback Dan LeFevour.
"It's just part of the game, part of doing what we do as players," Gutierrez said. "We've got to deal with situations like this, so I'm trying to come in and learn as fast as I can."
Smith wouldn't rule out game action for Gutierrez on Saturday.
"I think he could learn enough," the coach said. "It's not like we're teaching him a new sport or anything like that."
The signing is a validation of sorts for Hanie, who has thrown just seven passes in two NFL seasons. Martz had expressed some concern over the lack of a veteran backup to Cutler, and the Bears tried to sign 38-year-old Todd Collins. But Collins declined the offer, and instead of looking for another experienced player, Gutierrez was targeted.
Martz has become comfortable enough with Hanie that he didn't mind signing an inexperienced replacement.
"Caleb is further than I thought he would be," Martz said. "You go through growing pains. We put a lot of pressure on him trying to get him ready and stress him out a little bit.
"He went through that phase, and he's fought through it real well, and he understands what we're doing."
Hanie completed 10 of 17 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown with one interception last weekend against the San Diego Chargers before leaving with the shoulder injury, which occurred on a sack.
Martz said developing a backup quarterback was an inexact science at best.
Martz, the offensive coordinator in St. Louis when the Rams won the Super Bowl following the 1999 season, recalled how former quarterback Trent Green was backed up by an unknown Kurt Warner.
"Trent only threw two incomplete passes in that preseason, '99, and you have this grocery clerk back there as a backup quarterback," Martz said. "So, who knows? I don't have a crystal ball."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press