LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Rex Grossman sounded almost defiant.
After an offseason in which he heard calls for a change, the inconsistent Chicago Bears' quarterback had a message for his critics: Bring it on.
"It doesn't hurt when people doubt me," Grossman said on Wednesday.
He could be excused for feeling as though he is stuck in a time warp as the Bears prepare to defend the NFC championship. Inconsistency and critical fan reaction have become the norm.
Now, Grossman has a chance to change that, starting with Sunday's season-opener at San Diego.
But, can he?
"I believe they're going to criticize him regardless," veteran guard Ruben Brown said. "The people that love him are going to love him. This is a guy that took a team to the Super Bowl, you know what I mean? How many other teams out there have a guy on their roster like that?"
Few have quarterbacks who led them to the Super Bowl. Few have quarterbacks who were as inconsistent as Grossman was last season. Few have quarterbacks under such intense scrutiny.
"What motivates me is to become a great quarterback in this league and be a great quarterback for this franchise," Grossman said.
The Bears will take consistent. Reliable.
Spectacular at times and awful at others, Grossman kept Chicago guessing last season. That probably explains why the Bears allowed him to go into the final year of his contract rather than sign him to an extension in the offseason.
Grossman showed Pro Bowl form the first five weeks, when his quarterback rating was 98.6 or higher four times, but the inconsistency hit like an unchecked linebacker after that. There were three games where his rating was 10.2 or lower, including 0.0 in the regular-season finale against Green Bay.
He played well against Seattle in the playoffs, passing for 282 yards, but was mediocre against New Orleans and Indianapolis. He passed for 3,193 yards last season but threw almost as many interceptions (20) as touchdowns (23) after being limited by injuries the previous two years.
In the preseason, he was inconsistent from play to play.
Although he completed 31 of 42 passes for 320 yards, his performance at Indianapolis stands out. He was 9-of-11 in that game but fumbled three times, botching two snaps.
While his performance swings like a pendulum, Grossman's demeanor rarely does. He sidesteps the blitz like a cool, nimble, quarterback, rarely showing any signs of anger.
"That takes a lot," Brown said. "Believe me, if that had been me, I would have been in here (cursing) everyone. I could hardly deal with people in public because I know what people are saying to me about him. Just imagine what they're saying to his face. He's a strong guy. That alone shows something about him, that he didn't have one of those meltdowns."
Brown spent his first nine years in Buffalo, where Jim Kelly heard it at the end of his career and where Rob Johnson "folded like a tent."
"When the pressure was on, he was out," Brown said. "Rex handles it like he's a duck in water."
If Grossman snapped, Brown said, "I'd be right behind him. I'd be like yeah, 'Go get 'em. Get 'em off your back."'
Of course, there are other ways to accomplish that.
The Bears believe with another year in the system, Grossman will begin to find a level of consistency.
"Now we go to camp, we go to games and we call things, and he's done it over and over and over," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He has a real good understanding of why we're calling it, not just what we're doing and trying to memorize where to go. He's understanding why he's going where he's going with the ball."