ST. LOUIS – Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman broke his left ankle early in the second quarter of Friday night’s preseason game against the St. Louis Rams and will be sidelined three to four months.

Grossman, who played in only three games last season before being shelved by a right knee injury, was hurt with 11:08 to go in the half on a 4-yard completion to Darnell Sanders. After being flushed out of the pocket by Jeremy Loyd and Trev Faulk and getting spun around by Faulk, he got back to his feet.

While limping, Grossman signaled for a trainer. He then sat down and grabbed his left knee in pain, and slammed his helmet on the cart before being taken off the field.

The Bears used four quarterbacks last year and have used at least three in six of seven seasons. They could be stuck in a similar predicament this year given that backup Chad Hutchinson is unproven.

General manager Jerry Angelo said in the offseason that he was committed to having a veteran backup on board, but the team passed on Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson and Jay Fiedler.

Grossman was 6-for-11 for 52 yards before leaving the scoreless game. He was replaced by Hutchinson, who led the Bears to their only first-half score on the same drive.

Clarett out for Broncos’ preseason opener

HOUSTON-Maurice Clarett’s hasn’t played in a game in more than 2 years.

He’ll have to wait at least another week to make his NFL debut. The former Ohio State star and third-round draft pick has a sore groin and will miss the Denver Broncos’ preseason opener on Saturday against the Houston Texans.

“The MRI was negative,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “It’s nothing serious. It’s not torn. He is getting rehab right now, working out a couple of times a day in the weight room, getting treatment about four times a day. Hopefully when we get back, he will be ready to go.”

While Clarett, who did not accompany the team to Houston, awaits his first NFL game, Jerry Rice will make his Broncos debut in hopes of making the team for his 21st season.

Rice, who sat out practice Wednesday morning with a sore heel, participated in the remainder of the team’s workouts in Houston. He’s listed as second-string at one of the receiver positions behind Ashley Lelie.

The Texans will get a first look at their revamped defense, including first-round draft pick Travis Johnson. Coach Dom Capers moved Kailee Wong from outside to inside linebacker in his 3-4 defense and picked up speedy free agent Morlon Greenwood to play middle linebacker in an attempt to generate a pass rush.

They got Phillip Buchanon from Oakland in the offseason, and he’ll join last year’s runner-up for defensive rookie of the year, Dunta Robinson, at cornerback.

Johnson, a defensive tackle who missed one day of training camp before signing, said he’s up to speed and ready to play his first game. As for what will be in his head when he lines up for his first play, Johnson answered quickly.

“Violence,” he said with a laugh. “It’s always controlled violence. I’m going to go out there and work hard.”

Houston’s new defense will be tested by the Broncos’ high-powered offense. Denver was fifth in the league in average total yards with 395.8 yards per game, and quarterback Jake Plummer threw for a Broncos single-season record of 4,089 yards.

Plummer said practicing with Houston all week gave his offense a good chance to get reacquainted with the 3-4.

Even without Clarett, the Broncos have a multitude of good running backs led by Mike Anderson. Second-stringer Tatum Bell had 75 carries for 396 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie and could push for the starting job.

“We’ve got a lot of guys fighting for positions and backup positions,” Shanahan said. “That’s what preseason is all about. To see how they operate in game situations and hopefully they play well.”

Both coaches said they expect to play their starters for about 10 plays and then use the remainder of the game to evaluate players vying for roster spots.

“These games you’d like to go out, you’d like to see your team be efficient in all three areas,” Capers said. “But it’s real important that you get a good evaluation. It’s the first step in the competitive stages of being able to select your roster.”

The Texans hope their offensive line fares better than it did last season, when David Carr was sacked a league-high 49 times. Capers will start offseason acquisition Victor Riley over incumbent Seth Wand at tackle on Saturday. He said he’s not sure who will be the starter this season, but that he’s starting Riley against Houston because he hasn’t seen as much of him.

Offensive guard Chester Pitts said the line will be more consistent this season and that it will show Saturday.

“If we do things right we’re just as good as anybody in the NFL,” Pitts said. “But when we don’t do things right, we can look sloppy and ugly. So the biggest thing for us is doing things right play in and play out no matter how many plays we have out there.”

AP-ES-08-12-05 1850EDT

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