Cutler question left unanswered by Smith is most interesting
Jay Cutler during Sunday's game against the Texans. (Brian Cassella/Tribune photo / November 16, 2012)
By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter 8:36 a.m. CST, November 16, 2012
The question Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith did not answer Thursday is the one that is most interesting.
Would he consider holding Jay Cutler out of Monday’s game at San Francisco even if the quarterback has been medically cleared to return?
“I just can't wait for us to get to the point where Jay is ready to play and then we'll make all of those decisions then,” Smith said. “First, just get ready to practice and then we'll go get to that next step.”
Cutler could potentially return to practice Friday – Smith said “wait ’til tomorrow and see.” If Cutler practices, he could be on pace to play against the 49ers (6-2-1) on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Bears could put Cutler back on the field as soon as he is cleared or they could err on the side of caution knowing that a subsequent concussion could complicate the matter for a player with a history of head injuries.
Niners quarterback Alex Smith has spent the previous two days participating in practice on a limited basis as he returns from a concussion. He has not been fully cleared but all signs point to him being available for the game.
If Cutler practiced Friday and responded well, he could return and practice again Saturday and then have a walk-through on Sunday morning before the team departs for San Francisco. That would be more than enough time to get up to speed with the game plan if doctors sign off on his return.
“There's an advantage on our part if they don't know that Jay is playing,” Smith said. “There's an advantage on their part if we don't know that Smith is playing. But I think you look at that a little bit but eventually get to trying to defend the quarterback position as much as anything and that's what we're doing. They're going to have somebody underneath center that we'll have to contend with.”
The Bears will have someone under center, too, and at this point it could still wind up being Cutler. If not, Jason Campbell will make his 71st career NFL start and first with the Bears.
“He's thrown a lot of passes, been in a lot of huddles,” Smith said of Campbell. “The guys feel comfortable of course with him. There's a reason why we have him here as our backup quarterback. Jason being around a while knows that it's a long season and backups have to play from time to time. And I know he's ready to go. If Jason has to play, believe me, we feel real good about it.”