LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) – Rex Grossman expects to be in uniform for the first time this season when the Chicago Bears visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

The projected starter at quarterback before breaking his left ankle in the preseason, he is listed as questionable.

“Just to be able to suit up again will be a milestone for me,” said Grossman, now the third-stringer behind rookie Kyle Orton and Jeff Blake.

Grossman underwent surgery after breaking his ankle in the second preseason game at St. Louis – his second major injury in as many seasons. After starting the final three games as a rookie in 2003, Grossman’s second season ended when he tore the ACL in his right knee on a touchdown run in Week 3 against Minnesota.

The Bears are a surprising 7-3, have won six straight and lead the NFC North. Orton – the third quarterback behind Grossman and the departed Hutchinson when camp opened – is 145-of-264 for 1,389 yards, has more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (eight), and ranks 30th with a 62.5 rating.

But the team is winning.

The formula – a top-ranked defense, a solid offensive line and effective running game – is working.

“Anytime you’re on a six-game winning streak, you don’t change,” Grossman said.

Will he feel that way a few weeks from now if the ankle is completely healed?

“That’s not for me to answer,” said Grossman, who is “85 to 90” percent.

Grossman did throw some praise toward Orton.

“He’s been doing fine,” Grossman said. “He’s been doing what the coaches have asked him to do. I’ve been there telling him what I see on the sidelines, but he’s got most things under control and understands what’s going on.

Orton said, “Guys around me are playing well. I’m not having to do a whole bunch. … We’ve stayed out of third-and-12 situations for the most part. It’s easier on the offensive coordinator, it’s easier on me, it’s easier on the entire offense.”

Grossman isn’t a proven commodity.

In six games, he has completed 85-of-156 passes for 1,044 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

He is not worried about re-injuring the ankle.

“I feel like I can do everything,” said Grossman, who practiced with the scout team in seven-on-seven drills last week. “The agility is not quite as good as it was.”

And his career has not quite gone the way he anticipated.

After being drafted 22nd overall in 2003, Grossman waited patiently behind Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler before starting the final three games. A tendon injury in his right hand forced him out of that season’s finale at Kansas City.

Last year, it was the knee. And in August, he broke his ankle.

“I’ve worked really hard to get back healthy, to get to this point,” Grossman said. “Just to get to this point has been a struggle. I feel like I’m almost healthy and ready to go.”

To make room for Grossman, the Bears cut quarterback Kurt Kittner, who did not appear in any games. They also released wide receiver Carl Ford and activated wide receiver Airese Currie from the non-football injury list.


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