BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A quarterback competition promises to heat up the Chicago Bears' training camp, and coach Lovie Smith wanted to make it clear there was no perceived favorite between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton.
"It's dead even," Smith said Tuesday as the Bears reported to Olivet Nazarene University for a camp that kicks off with a first practice Wednesday.
"I think it will be a great competition between Rex and Kyle or Kyle and Rex, however you want to say it. The guy who ends up winning the position, we feel real good about him leading us where we want to go."
So who gets the first snap with the first team on Wednesday?
"Practice is tomorrow at 3 (p.m.). See you there," Smith replied.
Smith wouldn't set a date for deciding the starter, even if he has one in mind. He said teams generally like to have their starters play together for the third preseason game. The Bears begin their preseason schedule Aug. 7.
"As far as competition when it goes, I want the players to think they have as many chances as they possibly can to prove they deserve to be in a certain position," Smith added. "I just don't think that's anything that no one else really needs to know right now."
One guy who isn't in the Bears' picture is a player who has beaten them often -- Brett Favre. Favre and the Green Bay Packers are embroiled in a rift after he decided he wanted to play again and not retire.
"Brett Favre is one of the all-time great players to play our game for a long period of time," Smith said. "I assume he'll play for the Packers this year. If not there, I assume somebody out there, I don't who that is."
The Bears have plenty to sort out during training camp other than the battle between Grossman, who led the team to the Super Bowl two years ago but whose career has been characterized by erratic play, and Orton, who started 15 games in 2005 and the final three last season.
Orton is eager to play again after sitting for so long.
"I was kinda stuck back at three these last three camps and this is the first time I've come in with a chance to be the guy opening day," he said, adding that he expects an even competition.
"I definitely think so. It's been extremely fair through OTAs and I don't see any reason why that would change."
Grossman said what's happened during his first five seasons is behind him.
"I'm focusing on the present. The past or the future doesn't really matter. I'm living in the now right now," he said. "In some ways I think everyone has to prove themselves every single year. So you know this is a little bigger for me in this instance. But no doubt I am extremely motivated, ready to go."
Chicago is revamping its offensive line and a lot is contingent on getting first-round pick Chris Williams signed so he can learn the left tackle spot that is so crucial to protecting the quarterback.
With the departures of Ruben Brown and Fred Miller, John Tait has moved to right tackle alongside Roberto Garza. Terrence Metcalf, Josh Beekman and veteran John St. Clair are all candidates for playing time on the left side.
Williams is expected to be the starter and Smith said he thinks the young tackle will sign soon.
"If you're a rookie and if you're just looking at what history tell you, you need to be in camp that first day. You want to blend in that first day, you don't want to come out and stick out as being the only story that's happening that day," Smith said.
"I assume he'll be here and ready to play."
After the release of the Cedric Benson following two off-field incidents, the Bears could turn to second-round pick Matt Forte as their starting running back, but it could be recently signed Kevin Jones, who's coming off a knee injury and will be brought along slowly.
With speedy Bernard Berrian now with the Vikings, the Bears brought back Marty Booker and added Brandon Lloyd to a receiving corps that will feature return star Devin Hester.
And Smith said he expects the Bears to play defense like they did two years ago en route to winning the NFC. Tackle Tommie Harris and linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, who form the core of the defense, all have new deals since last season. Urlacher signed a one-year contract extension Tuesday through 2012 that is worth $18 million. He is coming off minor neck surgery in the offseason.
The Bears also need a healthy Nathan Vasher in the secondary. He played only four games last season.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press