After a thumbs-up performance against the Chargers Sunday, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will miss “an extended period of time” with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, according to head coach Lovie Smith.
Sources leaked the story shortly after the Bears left Soldier Field yesterday, with reports that the injury would require surgery that would likely keep Cutler sidelined for the remainder of the regular season. Today, Smith confirmed that Cutler indeed fractured his thumb and would undergo surgery, but he hopes Cutler will return before season’s end.
“The plan is to get him back at the latter part of the regular season,” Smith said. “‘Was it a season ending injury?’ No. From what I’ve been told right now, we can expect him back at the end of the regular season.”
The injury came on Cutler’s attempt to tackle Antoine Cason after a fourth quarter interception. Cutler was noticeably upset after the play, probably because the interception that lead to the injury was not his fault. Johnny Knox fell down on the play, allowing for an easy pick that left the quarterback as the only obstacle between Cason and the end zone.
It was a tough way for Cutler to get hurt, having played one of his best games of the season against former rival Phillip Rivers. Cutler finished the game 18 for 31 with 286 yards and 2 TD’s, including completing both his pass attempts after suffering the injury.
Cutler’s play has been key during the Bears five game winning streak, making it a major blow for a team with high hopes this season. Brian Urlacher said while he feels the Bears will be fine with Cutler out, it is going to be a challenge.
“It’s devastating,” Urlacher said. “It’s horrible, and I felt worse for him than I did for us. It stinks for us because he’s having such a great year. He’s our leader. He’s the guy we turn to for pretty much everything.”
Backup Caleb Hanie, who impressed many with his play in the NFC Championship Game in January, will take over the job while Cutler recovers. Other names have been thrown into the mix about who the Bears could potentially bring in, but there does not appear to be many quality options.
Retired quarterback Kurt Warner, who has experience in the Mike Martz offense, tweeted that while he was “bummed” for Cutler and loves the offense, he will not be putting the pads back on.
Another retired gunslinger who will be thrown into conversation and some people’s fantasies is Brett Favre. However, the 42 year-old, and the Bears for that matter, have a list of reasons to go in the other direction. It might have worked three years ago, but the only place Bears fans will see Favre this season is on Wrangler commercials.
Former Jaguars quarterback David Garrard also seems like an unlikely option, as he continues to recover from back surgery.
This is not an ideal situation for the Bears but it appears to be one that they can overcome. With a 7-3 record and a favorable remaining schedule (two opponents with winning records in their last six games), it is likely that the Bears can survive with Hanie at the helm. Still, having Jay Cutler back for the game at Lambeau Field on Dec. 25 has to be number one on the Bears’ Christmas list.