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Krenzel gets first starting nod for Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) _ Craig Krenzel promises that when he makes his first NFL start for the Chicago Bears he won't be overcome by emotions or jitters.

``I don't really get nervous. I feel that nervousness is kind of a byproduct of being unprepared,'' Krenzel said Wednesday, looking forward to Sunday night's home game against the 49ers.

Three years ago, Krenzel made his first start for Ohio State in an imposing and electric venue _ at Michigan where most of the 100,000-plus fans were rooting against him.

He directed Ohio State to its first win in Ann Arbor since 1987, went on to lead the Buckeyes to an unbeaten national championship season as a junior a year later and finished 24-3 as a starter.

Now he's a fifth-round draft choice who never expected to be playing this soon, but will be leading the Bears on national TV in a matchup of 1-5 teams.

A season-ending knee injury to Rex Grossman and three ineffective outings by backup Jonathan Quinn prompted the Bears to give Krenzel the shot.

``We're glad that's settled. We'll put a lot on Craig's shoulders so we'll take it upon ourselves to step up and help him out. That's what needs to be done,'' tight end Dustin Lyman said.

Krenzel majored in molecular genetics so his ability to pick up the Bears' West Coast-type offense is no surprise.

He got his first action in the second half of last week's 19-9 loss to Tampa Bay. After relieving Quinn, he completed 9 of 19 passes for 69 yards with an interception and guided the Bears to their only touchdown.

There are some questions: can he put the ball where it needs to go and is his arm strong enough to make the throws necessary in the NFL on a consistent basis?

``I think who you are on the field, you can't change that. I can't change my style, I can't change the way I play. I can't really change the way I throw the ball,'' he said.

``You know the most important thing is that I feel confident in myself and my abilities to go out on the field this Sunday and help this team win a football game.''

Coach Lovie Smith said earlier the initial plan for Krenzel was to be the No. 3 quarterback serving an apprenticeship on the sidelines this season.

But Krenzel knew the Bears' recent history of misery with quarterbacks they've been forced to use their No. 3 guy six times in the last seven seasons and made sure he was ready.

``You never really get time to think about that. When I got here in April, my No. 1 goal and objective was to start learning as much as I could as quickly as possible in case I was called upon to play or for when I was called upon to play,'' Krenzel said.

``I feel I've done a good job of that. My grasp of the offense, I feel very comfortable and confident with, and it's paid off.''

Chicago's receivers are frustrated by a lack of downfield action, and offensive coordinator Terry Shea said Wednesday that his offense is predictable and has lost its flair.

Now Krenzel, who's more mobile than Quinn, will get a chance to kick it up a notch.

All of a sudden we've become three downs and out,'' Shea said.We've got to become more of an offense that I believe we can.''

David Terrell remembers Krenzel from his Michigan days and now he just wants the ball.

``There have been a lot of fifth-round picks who had a chance to get in and play and played well,'' said Terrell, who made no catches last week and has only 17 all season.

``As a receiver we started out with Rex, he was our guy. He was everything to us. Right now we are fighting an uphill battle with the quarterback spot. I think once Craig gets a full game under his belt, I truly believe he will be good.''

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