Collins signs with Bears at QB

Veteran quarterback Todd Collins made no pretenses about his
ambitions after signing a one-year contract Monday with the Chicago
Bears.

The 38-year-old longtime NFL backup agreed to terms with an eye
on taking the backup spot away from injured quarterback Caleb
Hanie.

”I plan to,” Collins said. ”I’m out there to compete. I’m not
going to just sell myself short. I’ve been the No. 2 guy for a long
time. You always try to play at the level that the starter’s
playing, and ideally you can step in there and contribute just like
the starter did.”

Hanie suffered a right shoulder sprain in the preseason opener
at San Diego. Even before that, offensive coordinator Mike Martz
expressed concern about the team’s lack of experience at
quarterback behind starter Jay Cutler. Hanie has thrown just seven
regular-season passes in two full seasons. The team signed former
Patriot Matt Gutierrez last week and also has rookie sixth-round
draft choice Dan LeFevour on the roster.

”Todd brings a lot of experience to the position,” coach Lovie
Smith said. ”It’s a natural fit for him to come here.”

Collins has completed 381 of 674 passes for 4,479 yards, and 22
touchdowns with 19 interceptions. He has made 20 career starts over
a career that included stints in Buffalo, Kansas City and
Washington. While in Kansas City from 2001-2005, he played in an
offense similar to the one Martz has installed in Chicago.

”Being in other offenses other than this offense, I’ve come to
appreciate this philosophy and what Martz brings to the team,”
Collins said. ”So that’s why I figured I’d better do this before I
don’t get another chance.”

Collins rejected a Bears’ salary overture last week, but the
sides kept talking.

”They tweaked the contract a little bit to satisfy what I
wanted out of it,” Collins said.

Although Collins has his eye on the backup spot, he hasn’t been
guaranteed he’ll get it.

”I’m familiar with the system, I agree with the philosophy,”
he said. ”And seeing what coach Martz has done and hearing from
other people who have worked with him, I figured it’s just too good
of an opportunity to turn down, even though I wasn’t assured
anything in terms of a position.”

Smith said Hanie’s second-string job is no different than any
other on the team. ”Every job is open to competition,” Smith
said.

There is no timetable for Hanie’s return, although Smith has
said it’s possible he could be out until the regular season.

”My reaction is I’ve just got to keep on plugging away at
getting better and all the work that I’ve done to this point,”
Hanie said about the signing. ”I just need to keep on building on
that. I need to get back from my injury quickly so I can continue
the process.”

Smith couldn’t say whether Collins would play in the third
preseason game Saturday at Soldier Field against Arizona. The Bears
plan to play starters into the third quarter as a dress rehearsal
for the regular season, so there wouldn’t be much remaining playing
time available.

Regardless, the coach expects Collins to be able to contribute
quickly.

”When you’ve been a veteran who has played that long, if he’s
sharp, he should be able to pick it up fairly soon,” Smith said.
”But we’re not going to rush him.”

The team waived injured wide receiver Eric Peterman to make room
on the roster for Collins. Peterman suffered a thumb injury
fielding a punt in Saturday’s game.

NOTES: Linebacker Brian Urlacher did not practice due to a calf
muscle strain suffered in Saturday’s game with Oakland. Urlacher is
day to day. … Linebacker Nick Roach missed practice due to a knee
injury and guard Lance Louis missed due to an ankle injury suffered
in Saturday’s game.