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Bears hopeful Cutler will return before end of regular season

November 21, 2011

Online Staff Report

The Chicago Bears are hopeful starting quarterback Jay Cutler will be able to return to action prior to the end of the regular season.

Cutler is expected to miss as many as six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery on a fractured thumb on his right throwing hand sustained during the Bears’ 31-20 win over the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field Sunday, Nov. 20.

Cutler was injured early in the fourth quarter of the San Diego game while attempting to tackle Antoine Cason, who had intercepted a Cutler pass intended for Johnny Knox.

Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith said on WBBM radio Nov. 21: “Jay does have a right thumb fracture. We took X-rays last night and he’ll be seeing a specialist this morning and we’ll be able to tell you a little bit more after that.

I’m not going to play doctor right now,” Smith added. “We’re going through the process. We will be able to tell you a little bit more [later]. That’s all we can tell you right now. That’s all we know right now.”

Cutler’s injury comes with the Bears riding the NFL’s third-longest win streak of five games. With six games remaining in the season, the Bears are tied for second in the NFC North at 7-3 with the Detroit Lions. The Green Bay Packers, meantime, are a perfect 10-0, meaning the Bears’ playoff hopes likely rest on earning a wild-card berth.

In addition to 7-3 Detroit, others in the hunt for one of two wild-card slots are the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons — all at 6-4.

With Cutler sidelined, the Bears will turn to 26-year-old Caleb Hanie. Hanie, who has no career starts, has completed 8 of 14 passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in four games as a reserve.

During the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay last season, Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He did, however, engineer two touchdown drives in that game, which the Bears lost 21-14.

Rookie Nathan Enderle is the only other quarterback on the Bears’ roster. However, the Bears may pursue a veteran to back up Hanie.

The Bears’ remaining schedule has them at Oakland (6-4) Sunday, Nov. 27; home against Kansas City (4-5) Sunday, Dec. 4; at Denver (5-5) Sunday, Dec. 11; home against Seattle (4-6) Sunday, Dec. 18; at Green Bay (10-0) Sunday, Dec. 25; and at Minnesota (2-8) Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012.

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