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Grossman looks for steadier days in second season as starter

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) -Rex Grossman has plenty of reasons to be a better quarterback this season. He'll need to improve to get the Chicago Bears back to the playoffs, he can perhaps shut up his critics and he's in the final year of a contract.

"I think there's a lot of pressure, but that's what we play the game for. Every time you take a snap there's pressure to do well as far as for your teammates for your job and everyone around you," Grossman said Friday when the Bears had their first training camp practice.

"I know it could be a really good season for me if I play the way I'm capable of playing."

Whether he will is the question.

Grossman's up-and-down season - good at times and abysmal at others, including an 0.0 QB rating in the regular-season finale - ended with a Super Bowl loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Playing in slippery conditions, he threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions and also fumbled a pair of snaps, losing one of those. He did complete 20 of 28 passes for 165 yards.

"I just want to improve, build on the things I did well last year and try to work on some of the things I didn't do as well," Grossman said.

He's entering his fifth NFL season but just his second as a full-time starter after losing nearly two years to injuries. He's 17-6 as a regular-season starter and 2-2 in the playoffs.

"It feels a little bit more comfortable knowing what to expect, having played four playoff games now and started a full season and experienced a Super Bowl. All that has to benefit me and I'm just going to use that and run with it," he said.

Grossman will see some different faces on his side of the ball, on and off the field.

In particular, Pep Hamilton was hired to replace Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach and help Grossman work on some things he struggled with last season - like his mechanics under duress.

"There is nothing drastic we have to do with him," Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "His mechanics were overall good last year and he had some good games. We just have to get him that way all the time."

Some shake-up on offense may help. At least that's what the Bears hope, figuring some new looks could help Grossman move the ball around more and see things quicker.

Among the changes: the Bears are going to turn kick return star Devin Hester loose on offense, Cedric Benson has replaced Thomas Jones as the featured running back and they used their first-round draft pick to take tight end Greg Olsen.

There's also the possibility the Bears may use some shotgun formation to give Grossman more time to throw.

Bears coach Lovie Smith, who stood by Grossman last season during his struggles, the harsh criticism and numerous cries for backup Brian Griese to take over, said he's expecting Grossman to be better.

"Experience teaches you a lot. I'm going to look at the amount of work he's put in to improving his fundamentals, his technique," Smith said.

"Normally, once you've been in a system for a while, you get better at it. Most quarterbacks I've seen make a big improvement their second year as a starter and I think Rex will do that, too."

Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, who caught a TD pass from Grossman in the Super Bowl but who also had miscommunication with him on a costly interception the Colts returned for a TD, said the quarterback's own opinion of himself also is important.

"I expect Rex to be a better player than he was last year. I do. I expect him to make better decisions. I expect him to be consistent," Muhammad said.

"And you know I'm pretty sure he expects that too out of himself. It's not about what Moose expects out of Rex, I think it's more what Rex expects out of Rex. And you know him just improving on what he built from last season."

Grossman has studied the 19 games he played last season - the highs and the lows, the good and the bad.

He's convinced some problems were not necessarily physical.

"You start to think too much rather than sticking with the basics," he said. "Just run the offense. If I can have that same mind-set all through the season, I'll be fine."

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