Columnist Mike Nadel cheered at Bears first day at camp.
As Rex Grossman signed autographs on the first day of training camp, one dude told him: "Instead of your name, you should have to write, 'I WILL NOT THROW WHILE BACKPEDALING' 500 times."
And as the Bears quarterback tried to enter the dining hall Friday, he was stopped by a security guard who insisted Rex wait until Brian Griese went inside first.
And later, an old lady approached Grossman, kicked him in the shin and screamed, "That's for the second Green Bay game!" Poor Rex barely had recovered when the same coot kneed him in the ... um ... region north of the shin. "And THAT'S for the Super Bowl!" she shouted.
And you may not believe this, but ...
OK, you were smart enough not to believe any of that.
Actually, Grossman was received quite well by the large, loud flock of fans that turned out to watch the defending NFC champions' first workout at Olivet Nazarene University. Though razzing Rex became THE thing to do at Soldier Field last season, it was a boo-free day in Bourbonnais.
In fact, fans spent much of the afternoon oohing and aahing over the many sharp passes he threw to his talented receiving crew - a group improved significantly by the arrival of rookie tight end Greg Olsen and coach Lovie Smith's decision to let the offense "borrow" kick-return sensation Devin Hester.
I wasn't surprised at the Rex love because training camp is a time for positive vibes. I mean, even Detroit Lions fans are positive in July, at least the ones not wearing bags on their heads.
Besides, a lot of time has passed since (in the eyes of an amazing number of fans and media mavens) Rex personally ruined a season that could have been halfway decent if only the Bears had played the great Brian Griese.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said it hurt him personally to hear and read the abuse heaped upon Grossman.
"We wouldn't have gotten as far as we got last year without Rex Grossman," Turner said. "Rex had a lot of really, really good games and I think people tend to - for whatever reason - forget about those and focus on the others."
For whatever reason? It's called fan mentality. Most fans are what-have-you-done-for-me-lately folks who have made an enormous emotional investment in their team. If said team plays poorly, they feel booing is both their right and their responsibility.
And the quarterback is the easiest target.
"He knows that's part of the territory," Turner said, "and he's handled it as well or better than anybody could."
Grossman handled it poorly one day during Super Bowl week, calling his critics "ignorant." When he then melted down in the Miami muck, national columnists such as Rick Reilly ripped him and the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman piled on.
For a few days there, Rex replaced Dubya as the nation's punching bag.
It could have hardened Grossman. Instead, outwardly at least, he seems relaxed and confident. After spending the offseason working on his mechanics with new quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, Grossman really was outstanding Friday. Yes, it was only the first day of practice, but that didn't stop Griese from looking pathetic.
Had it been the other way around - had Grossman misfired all day and been intercepted on consecutive passes near the afternoon's end - I wonder if Bourbonnais would have remained a boo-free zone.
Smith and GM Jerry Angelo profess undying loyalty to Grossman, and why not? Sure, he must improve his judgment and footwork, but, in his first full season, he passed for 3,193 yards and 23 touchdowns for a 13-3 team. The Bears simply do not have a better option.
Still, they are not loyal enough to commit to Rex beyond 2007. While Marc Bulger just signed a $65 million extension with St. Louis, the Bears insist Grossman play for relative peanuts under the terms of his 2003 rookie contract.
"There's a lot of pressure," Grossman said when asked about his contract situation. "But ... every time you take a snap, there's pressure to do well for your teammates, for your job and for everyone around you. I know it could be a really good season for me if I play the way I'm capable."
If he does have a really good season, he can sign for big bucks with any of a dozen teams that will be desperate for a top QB and laugh at his Chicago critics on his way out of town.
After failing to develop a single passable quarterback for two decades, wouldn't it be something if the Bears let Grossman get away just as he blossomed into the star they thought he'd be?
And we all know what the fans will scream at the pitiable soul to follow, right?
"Bring back Rex!"
Mike Nadel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at www.thebaldesttruth.com .