BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) -Suddenly, Caleb Hanie is the most popular quarterback in Chicago.
Nothing like a good showing to make Bears fans wonder if he has a shot at playing time, even if it came in the preseason opener against a third-string defense. Hanie's rise in popularity probably says as much about how fans feel about Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton as it does about his performance in Thursday's 24-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
``I'm just trying to get my foot in the door, trying to turn some heads,'' Hanie said. ``I think I've progressed well up to this point. I think they're looking for me to keep progressing and show that I can become an NFL quarterback.''
But he won't become a starter anytime soon.
An undrafted rookie from Colorado State, Hanie opened a few eyes by going 9-for-16 for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs, while Orton and Grossman did nothing to establish themselves as the front-runners in the two-man race to start.
``I'm striving to be a starting quarterback,'' Hanie said. ``It's probably not going to happen right away. I realize that. I just have to keep working hard.''
He has to keep perspective, which shouldn't be too hard for a quarterback who endured a 13-game losing streak over two seasons at Colorado State.
``That'll prepare you well for the adversity that you'll face in this league,'' he said.
And history suggests he'll face his share if he ever plays for the Bears.
Chicago is known for hot dogs, deep dish pizza and skyscrapers - not prolific quarterbacks. And last season was a particularly bad one for the passing game.
Only three teams had more interceptions than the Bears' 21. Chicago ranked 27th in completion rate (57.5), 15th in passing yards (209.8).
With no reliable running game and a rash of injuries on both sides of the ball, a team with championship goals stumbled to 7-9.
The wildly inconsistent Grossman threw six interceptions and one touchdown in the first three games and got benched in favor of Brian Griese. He returned for five more games and played better, passing for 913 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in that stretch before injuring his left knee.
That created an opening for Orton, who was less than overwhelming in the final three games. He was 43-for-80 with 478 yards in his first appearances since 2005, and now, he's in a competition with Grossman.
The Bears made it clear their faith in the quarterbacks was wearing thin, even though they didn't acquire a potential starter in the offseason. All they did was re-sign Grossman to a one-year deal and give Orton a one-year extension that runs through 2009 while bringing in undrafted free agents like Hanie.
Barring an unexpected move, any improvement at quarterback will come from within.
A frequent target of boos at Soldier Field, Grossman also took shots from two former teammates this week.
Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, back with the Carolina Panthers, told Sports Illustrated Chicago is ``where receivers go to die.'' And former Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson told CBS Sportsline.com that Grossman was ``brittle'' and ``soft.''
Grossman had little to say, but Hanie could sympathize. He heard his share of criticism as Colorado State during that lengthy losing streak, which stretched over his junior and senior seasons.
``My junior year, I put a lot on my back and blamed myself for a lot of things going wrong, but you've got to realize it's a team game,'' said Hanie, third all-time at Colorado State with 6,337 yards passing. ``At the same time, you still have to realize your mistakes. But you also have to not worry about what other people are saying.''
Now, others are saying good things about Hanie.
``He impressed me a lot in the preseason game,'' wide receiver Rashied Davis said.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner added: ``He's shown very good poise while he's here, intelligence. He's picked things up very quickly. He throws a real nice deep ball.''
For now, Hanie is trying to soak up what he can. He realizes he excelled with players who will likely be cut against a group of Chiefs that probably won't survive the preseason, either, so he's keeping it in perspective.
``Going in, I wasn't sure how I was going to play - if it was going to be extremely fast, but it turned out OK for me,'' he said. ``And I still have a lot of room to improve.''

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