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McCown to start for Bears

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Associated Press
December 22, 2011
— Quarterback Josh McCown will start an NFL game for the first time in four years when he lines up behind center for the Bears at Lambeau Field against Green Bay on Sunday night.

The Bears said Wednesday that McCown will replace the struggling Caleb Hanie. McCown hasn’t started a game since Dec. 23, 2007, for Oakland against Jacksonville. He was completely out of the NFL last season.


“Other than just the excitement and the joy of being between the stripes with the lights on again, I think that first snap obviously will be exciting,” McCown said.


The excitement for McCown, who threw two passes last week in a late relief role and eight passes total since his last start, will be tempered by the fact that the Bears’ playoff hopes will end if they lose.


“So I don’t want to get too excited and too amped up because for me, absolutely it’s a cool story and cool moment, but at the same time, I’m a competitor,” he said. “I want to win the game. I want to do right by the coaches and by the other 52 guys in the locker room.”


About five weeks ago, McCown was more concerned with coaching high school football than starting an NFL game.


Then quarterback Jay Cutler broke his thumb against San Diego on Nov. 20, when the Bears owned a 7-3 record. Hanie started four straight games and lost all of them, throwing nine interceptions as the Bears’ offense got into the end zone only four times.


“We just felt like we needed a boost,” coach Lovie Smith said.


“Caleb had played four games. I felt like that was enough to prove who you are and if you could help our team win. No more than that.


“Josh has been around, knows our offense, has been working against our defense for a long period of time. He’s a veteran. And again we’re just trying to give ourselves the best chance to win the game and we feel that’s the direction we need to go.”


McCown played for some struggling teams, and had a 12-19 record as a starter in Arizona in 2003-05 and in 2007 at Oakland. He has a career passing rating of 70.9, with 35 touchdown passes and 41 interceptions while completing 57.6 percent of his passes (611 of 1,060 for 6,596 yards).


Smith admitted he was basing the decision more on what Hanie hadn’t done than what McCown could do.


“I haven’t seen a lot from Josh,” he said. “Sometimes if you don’t like what you have, you have to look at your other options. We just have to have faith that we can play better, that we can do some things to help (McCown) out a little bit more, people around him can play a little bit better.”


In 2006, McCown played backup quarterback for Detroit under current Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, which was a key reason the Bears brought him in after Cutler’s injury rather than sign a free agent like Donovan McNabb.


“He’s a better passer right now than when I had him,” Martz said of McCown. “He’s mechanically a lot more consistent. He always had a terrific arm. He’s always been able to do some things with his legs, too. He’s a terrific athlete. In fact he played wide receiver for us one year.”


McCown, who is 6-foot-4, got on the field as a situational receiver on occasion for Detroit in 2006.


Martz said the preseason played a major role in the Bears going to McCown rather than starting rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Enderle.


“The problem with Nate is, Caleb didn’t have preseason a year ago, he got injured and we spent all our time with Caleb in the preseason,” Martz said. “So Nate didn’t get a whole lot of work. It’s just too much of an unknown right now. We’re trying to win so, he’ll have his time, I’m sure. But right now this is our best opportunity to win.”


McCown will be wary Sunday of a Packers defense that thrives on turnovers, especially defensive back Charles Woodson, who is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions.


“So we’ll know where he’s at,” McCown said. “He’s been a very good player for a long time and he’s one of the smartest players you’re going to play against.”


McCown said he probably didn’t appreciate his opportunity to start enough earlier in his career.


“But for me this time around it is definitely about business and just about going and competing and helping your team win and enjoying every opportunity you can to go out there and play,” he said. “If you’ve learned anything I think it’s that you appreciate the value of having a job and of going to work and getting to go spend time at work and be around the guys.”



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