Bears will be cautious with Cutler's return
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) gets up after a second quarter hit that may have resulted in a concussion during Sunday's game at Soldier Field in Chicago. Cutler did not return to the game in the second half.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's status for Monday night's game in San Francisco probably won't be determined until the weekend at the earliest.
"We'll go through the protocol," Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday. "Once they've been cleared to come back for practice and play, that's when they'll play."
Because Cutler has suffered concussions before, most recently in the first half of the Oct. 3, 2010, game against the New York Giants, Smith said the team is more likely to err on the side of caution in returning him to the playing field.
"If we err it will be as far as keeping payers out longer," Smith said. "We'll never put a guy at risk. No game is that important for us. The player's health always comes first with everything that we do."
Smith said Cutler was feeling better Monday morning and that he showed improvement even in the second half of Sunday's game.
"Of course he's getting better," Smith said. "(But) I'm not going to go through every step of the way. There's protocol that we go through, through the NFL and within our team."
Ready to go:
In Jay Cutler's absence, backup Jason Campbell will have the opportunity to take all the practice reps with the starting offense, instead of the handful or less that he normally gets during the week.
But even with limited practice reps, coach Lovie Smith believes the eight-year veteran with 70 NFL starts has enough experience to run the offense smoothly.
"It's tough (without practice reps), but that's why you bring in a veteran like Jason Campbell, who's played ball," Smith said. "In the NFL a lot of injuries happen, and you have to be ready. Jason's a pro. He's been getting excellent work. If you're the backup, you're normally going against the 'one' defense the entire week, so you're getting good work, and we've seen Jason Campbell play good football each week.
"If Jay couldn't go (vs. the 49ers), and we're not saying that by any means, Jason will be ready to go."
Welcome back Josh:
With Jay Cutler's status iffy this week, and Jason Campbell the only other quarterback on the 53-man roster, veteran Josh McCown was expected to sign Monday night.
McCown, 33, was signed off the street last season when Cutler suffered a season-ending thumb injury and was significantly more effective than backup Caleb Hanie, leading the Bears to a victory in the season finale, his second start. McCown's passer rating in his two starts was a serviceable 76.1, compared to Hanie's 41.8.
"We're looking at all options at the quarterback position," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's one of them. He's played good football for us. We're familiar with him."
Undrafted rookie Matt Blanchard is on the practice squad, but the Lake Zurich High School graduate isn't considered NFL ready at this point.
Vote of confidence:
Brandon Marshall caught 6 of his 8 passes Sunday from Jason Campbell for 86 of his 107 yards, but he said the Bears would miss Jay Cutler if he doesn't play Sunday.
"You never want to lose anybody, especially your starting QB," said Marshall, who already has 67 receptions for 904 yards, and is on pace to set franchise records in both categories. "He's our leader — he's the heart and soul of our offense. We want him to have a quick, speedy recovery.
"In the meantime, we have Jason Campbell, and he's more than capable. There were no heads down when Jay went down; there was no complaining. We have a staring QB as a backup. We're fortunate to have him, and there will be no drop-off in our offense."
Cornerback Tim Jennings is the first Bear since at least 1960 with three multi-interception games in the same season after picking off his league-leading seventh and eighth passes of the season Sunday night.
The last NFL player with three multi-pick games was the Ravens' Ed Reed in 2010. Jennings' career-high 8 interceptions are the most by a Bear since Nathan Vasher had 8 in 2005. Jennings entered the season with 7 career interceptions in 85 games. Eleven of his 15 career interceptions have come in his three seasons with the Bears.
Coach Lovie Smith said Shea McClellin's concussion in the first quarter was different from Cutler's because the rookie defensive end displayed symptoms right away.
McClellin did not return to the game and will be re-evaluated throughout the week.
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