Smith vague about Cutler, but QB likely won't play
Concussed quarterback Jay Cutler did not practice Thursday, increasing the odds that he will not play Monday night against the 49ers.
"There's not a whole lot I can say except he's getting better," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "I don't know if he'll be able to go this week or not."
With most other injuries, Cutler could play in the game with minimal practice, but with the NFL's emphasis on player safety as it relates to concussions, he appears to be a longshot.
"As a general rule, we would like for guys to at least practice by Friday," Smith said. "But for some guys that have been around awhile, if we get to game day and they haven't practiced (but) they feel like they can go, they'll play."
Smith usually plays it close to the vest with status reports on injured players, considering it to be a competitive advantage to keep opponents guessing. The Niners are expected to play the same game with their own concussed starting quarterback Alex Smith, who practiced Thursday — but was limited.
"I think it helps if you know exactly who you're preparing for," the Bears' coach said. "There's an advantage on our part if they don't know that Jay is playing. There's an advantage on their part if we don't know that (Alex) Smith is playing."
Monday night's game could come down to a battle between backup quarterbacks — the Bears' Jason Campbell vs. the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick.
Campbell took all the first-team reps at quarterback Thursday.
"He's a pro who's been around a long time," Lovie Smith said. "He's thrown a lot of passes, been in a lot of huddles. The guys feel comfortable with him. Jason knows it's a long season, and backups have to play from time to time. I know he's ready to go. If Jason has to play, believe me, we feel real good about it."
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kaepernick, a 2010 second-round pick, is an elite athlete who's averaging 8.4 yards on 21 carries. He has played in some Wildcat and option formations for the 49ers but has not started a game.
"He really has got some juice," Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said of Kaepernick. "He can run and fly. But Alex has got great mobility, too. They do a nice job in the pocket and on bootlegs and getting outside. It's just a little bit of option football, so we've got to just be on top of it."
Getting their kicks:
Punter Adam Podlesh is 30th in the league with a gross average of 41.7 yards, 2 yards less than he averaged in each of the past two seasons.
On Wednesday the Bears had three punters in for tryouts. Coincidence?
"We had punters in because just about every week there's someone we're looking at," Lovie Smith said. "We're always trying to improve our team and see what's out there. Wednesday was a punters today."
Podlesh's 38.4-yard net average is 21st in the league and 2 yards less than his franchise-record 40.4 of last season, his first with the Bears. He had season lows of 38.3 (gross) and 31.7 (net) in Week 9 against the Titans.
"Podlesh has played well for us throughout," Smith said. "(But) no one played as well as they needed to the last game (against the Texans)."
The six-year veteran missed most of the preseason with a hip injury, but Smith said that isn't an issue.
However, special teams coach Dave Toub pointed out, the NFL is a performance-based business, and Podlesh's performance has dipped.
"He is kind of in a slump right now and we're trying to battle through it," Toub said. "He had a real good practice (Thursday), so we're encouraged."
Defensive end Shea McClellin (concussion) and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf) did not practice. Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand) was limited.
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