Starting job not guaranteed when Cutler returns

Coach John Fox said it's not a given that quarterback Jay Cutler automatically gets the starting job back when he returns from the sprained thumb that sidelined him for Sunday night's 31-17 loss to the Cowboys.

"I don't think there are any givens," Fox said. "And that's no indictment on anybody. This is a day-to-day, week-to-week, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. We're just trying to get the best 11 guys out there, regardless of the position, to where we can play a full 60 minutes and get a victory."

At 0-3, Fox is searching for some firepower, and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer provided at least a spark in the second half Sunday night. The eight-year veteran completed 30 of 49 passes for 317 yards and 1 touchdown, and he was neither sacked nor intercepted. Hoyer's passer rating of 93.7 was superior to Cutler's 76.2 in Week One and 74.9 in Week Two.

Because of the Cowboys' 24-3 halftime lead, Hoyer faced some soft coverages in the second half, but the Bears have trailed in the second half of all three games.

"I thought he made good decisions," Fox said. "Not all of them. The very first play of the game (a 1-yard loss on a keeper by Hoyer that he should have handed to Jeremy Langford) didn't go quite as smooth as we'd like. I thought he did some good things."

Hoyer threw for 246 yards in the second half when the Bears were in catch-up mode.

"I thought he played pretty well," said tight end Zach Miller, who caught both of Hoyer's TD passes. "He was able to manage the game and get the ball out of his hands. But when you're down 24-3, you have to abort the game plan you go into it with, and then just kind of work on trying to catch up, and that's kind of how the game played out."

Fox is uncertain if Cutler will be on the field Wednesday when the Bears resume practice, but he has a history of returning ahead of schedule.

"First of all the medical people have to clear him," Fox said. "I don't think we want to have setbacks with any player who is injured, including Jay."

Last year Cutler suffered a hamstring injury in Week Two and some predicted a six-week absence. At 0-2, the Bears started Jimmy Clausen in Week Three and lost 26-0 to the Seahawks in Seattle. Cutler returned the next week, and the Bears won two straight.

"He came back and was healthy the rest of the season," Fox said. "It's hard to predict. We'll just see and evaluate every him day."

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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