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Basanez, Hanie battling to show they can do the job ... if needed
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Quarterback Caleb Hanie was with the Bears last year, but he never got in a game.

 

Associated Press

Brett Basanez (right), out of St. Viator and Northwestern, talks with wide receiver Johnny Knox during Saturday's workout.

 

Nam Y Huh

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Published: 8/4/2009 12:00 AM

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BOURBONNAIS - In a normal year, Brett Basanez and Caleb Hanie would be competing for the title of Most Popular Athlete in Chicago.

Then Jay Cutler came along to hang the moon and stars, not to mention Jupiter and Mars, in Bears fans' eyes.

With their backup quarterback battle thus eclipsed - nobody except their families wants to see them anywhere near the field this season - Basanez and Hanie are banding together to remain the Bears' other two signalcallers.

Keep in mind, few NFL teams are willing to go into a season without a veteran presence on the bench.

Basanez appeared in one game for the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 17, 2006. The Arlington Heights native's 6 completions and 11 attempts in that game represent the grand total of NFL experience for the duo.

"I think we and our bank accounts can agree that Jay's going to start," Basanez said. "He's the guy. And it's really Caleb and I fighting to prove to them that we can do it.

"I don't think he or I are worried about, 'All right, who's going to be No. 2 and who's going to be No. 3?' We want to prove to them that we can both do it and we're helping each other out. He's a great guy and we both want to be here."

They've been sharing reps during the Bears' first four days of camp. When they break down for 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, Cutler generally takes six snaps before Basanez and Hanie split the next six.

On Monday, Basanez received the chance to work with the second string, while Hanie went with the third-stringers. Both guys completed 3 of 4 passes during 11-on-11 work.

Though Basanez joined Cutler as the only quarterbacks to work during the two-minute drill at the end of Monday's practice, Bears coach Lovie Smith defused speculation that Basanez might have leapfrogged Hanie on the depth chart.

"Maybe it's just different looks right now," Smith said. "We haven't gotten him a whole lot of snaps. We're trying to get a good look at him and stuff. I would read nothing into it. He's still our '3' and we'll go from there."

The 23-year-old Hanie, who was active for one game during his rookie year but didn't see action, feels like a whole different quarterback even though he has yet to play when it counts.

That's not just because he owns a year's worth of experience with Ron Turner's offense.

"When you're out here at camp (again), you're just not afraid of the older guys and you know what to expect," Hanie said with a smile. "Especially if you make the team, it's a huge difference. They expect you to be here and do well and they know you, so it's a lot better. It's a little easier walking through the locker room, though they'll still get you once in awhile."

While Hanie hasn't felt the grim reaper's sting - he made the Bears as an undrafted free agent last fall straight out of Colorado State - the 26-year-old Basanez knows the ride can end any time.

The Northwestern grad thought he had clinched Carolina's third spot last fall, but the Panthers cut him after trading for Josh McCown in late August.

Fortunately for the 2001 St. Viator graduate, the Panthers brought him back a few days later and placed him on the practice squad when Matt Moore fractured his fibula.

Now Basanez has a house he has been trying to unload in Charlotte - and his wife's flying here this weekend to expedite the search for a new home.

A home they'll be looking to rent, not buy. He's confident in his talent and ability to prepare, but he's not dumb.

"I don't think I look back and say, 'I wish I would have done (more of) this,' " Basanez said. "I've taken stuff home. I study as much as I can when I'm here. I watch as much film as I can.

"I left my wife for months at a time to be up here. If I'm going to be up here away from her, I'm going to make it count. It's just repetition and playing, playing, playing. And, eventually, it comes together."