The fallout from the 21-19 loss to the Detroit Lions continued with the depressing injury news Monday that quarterback Jay Cutler will not play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and that two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman won't play again this season unless the Bears make the playoffs.
Cutler has a high ankle sprain and is week to week, which means he's out for Sunday, so hot-handed Josh McCown will get his second start. The good news, according to the Bears, is that Cutler did not aggravate the groin injury that sidelined him in the Week 9 victory at Green Bay, although his body language Sunday seemed to indicate a problem.
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"If the ankle injury hadn't been an issue," coach Marc Trestman said, "there's no indication that Jay wouldn't have started and played this week."
High ankle sprains almost always necessitate more downtime, but Cutler was aggressive with his rehab of the groin injury and returned much sooner than expected.
Tillman's injury will keep him sidelined longer. He was placed on "injured reserve/designated to return" with a right-triceps injury. He can return to practice in six weeks but isn't eligible to play until the eighth game after his designation, which would be the wild-card round of the playoffs.
At 5-4, the Bears have an uphill climb to the postseason. They trail the Lions by a full game in the NFC North and have lost both head-to-head matchups, giving Detroit the tiebreaker edge. If the season ended today, San Francisco and Carolina, both 6-3, would be the NFC wild-card teams. The Bears, Packers and Arizona Cardinals all are 5-4.
Asked if he could return for the playoffs, Tillman said: "Yes, potentially, hopefully."
Surgery remains a possibility, but no procedure is planned. "The injury is still kind of being diagnosed," said Tillman, who may seek a second opinion. "I'm still having it evaluated."
There was no word on whether (Dr.) Brandon Marshall will be consulted after he predicted Cutler's early return from the groin tear.
But, seriously, in what has become an all-too-often rallying cry for the defense this season, it's once again "next man up." In Tillman's place, six-year veteran Zack Bowman steps in, while 2012 sixth-round pick Isaiah Frey remains as the nickel corner.
"There's no way to replicate what Charles can do," Trestman said. "(But) we know Zack's up, and we saw what Zack can do. Zack played in the Giant game and made a big play for us early in the game. He's got the ability to play.
"He's not going to tell you he's Charles Tillman, and we're not going to tell you that either. But he's a good football player, and he'll step in and I'm sure be at his best, and that's where we are."
Tillman, who will be a free agent in the off-season, probably lost some bargaining power because of the injury, but he expects to stay involved and hasn't lost his sense of humor.
He said he would become a cheerleader and would help defensive-backs coach Jon Hoke mentor the team's young cornerbacks, including Frey, Sherrick McManis and C.J. Wilson, who could be promoted from the practice squad. But Tillman said he'd only go so far. "My job for now is to be a cheerleader," he said. "But I'm not wearing a skirt."
Tillman said the injury occurred some time in the second half.
"I don't know exactly what play," he said. "I just remember shoving (Lions receiver) Calvin (Johnson) on one play, and I felt something kind of strain, perhaps tear. I just felt a sharp pain."
The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Johnson is second in the NFL with 53 catches and 904 yards and is tied for second with 9 touchdowns, 2 of which came against the Bears and Tillman on Sunday. The 6-2, 198-pound corner said the injury didn't affect his performance.
"Calvin's a good receiver," Tillman said. "He had a good game."
Johnson was targeted 17 times in the game and finished with 6 catches for 83 yards.
Tillman, an 11-year veteran who was a second-round pick out of Louisiana Lafayette is 32 and in the final year of a seven-year, $41.5 million contract.
Especially coming off an injury, he is not a good bet to be re-signed to a lucrative deal by the Bears, although he leads the team with 3 forced fumbles and is tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions. His base salary for this season is $7.95 million.
Since his rookie season of 2003, Tillman has forced 42 fumbles, more than any other player in the NFL. He has returned 8 interceptions for touchdowns since 2003, tied for second most in the league.
But it's possible he has played his last game for the Bears.
"Potentially, possibly, yeah," he said, then joked, "but I guess I hadn't really thought about it until you just said it. So, thanks, for spoiling the mood."