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Grossman, Orton will battle for starting job in preseason

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is prepared to let quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton compete for the team's starting spot until the fourth and last game of the preseason, though he's hoping it doesn't come to that.

"Ideally you would like to have someone in place going into that last week of the preseason," Smith said Saturday, following the second practice of a three-day minicamp at Halas Hall. "But we'll just let it play out. If it's not clear by then, we'll let it go right up until (preseason's end)."

The Bears' last two preseason games are at home against San Francisco on Aug. 21 and at Cleveland on Aug. 28.

The Bears' defense hasn't made it particularly easy for coaches to evaluate the two in minicamp. Saturday, they intercepted each of the two quarterbacks three times in non-contact scrimmages.

"I think we're both good quarterbacks," said Orton, who started the final three games of 2007 and 15 games in 2005. "We both know the system well, so I think it'll be something going into the preseason."

At stake beyond starting quarterback is the future for both players, especially Grossman, who's signed only through 2008.

Grossman, who led the Bears to the Super Bowl, signed a one-year deal for $3 million with a possible $1.5 million more in incentives in February. The Bears extended Orton's contract one year through 2009 for a possible $5 million including incentives, and $1.6 million in bonus money.

"I think anybody going into their last year of their contract or signing a one-year deal, it's added pressure on them to have a good season," Grossman said in his first news conference since signing his one-year deal. "And I'm excited about the opportunities if that were the case.

"Who knows what's going to happen? I've got one thing in mind: that's having a good season this year."

In offseason practices and in training camp, the Bears will alternate first-team snaps between the two.

"I think it's the only fair way to evaluate them -- to let them both have an opportunity to play and work with the No. 1 offense," Smith said.

Grossman lost his starting spot last year to Brian Griese, who has been traded. He regained the starting job due to an injury to Griese, then suffered a knee sprain and lost it to Orton.

"I think I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder striving to prove myself in this league and get myself over that hump, or whatever, to become a great quarterback in this league consistently," Grossman said.

Grossman has 32 career starts and 33 interceptions to 31 touchdown passes for a passer rating of 70.9. Orton has a 62.2 career passer rating.

Orton can see himself improving because of the increased first-team practice time. He carried a clipboard on the sidelines throughout the Bears' 2006 Super Bowl season.

"Definitely, it's always tough when you come into a season without playing at all the season before," he said. "To get the three games at the end of the year that I did, and get a lot of work in so far in the offseason, I feel like I'm a better player."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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