Editor's Note: I've been without Internet at home for about a week, as I moved, and then had to wait a few days to get Internet installed in my new apartment. So apologies for the lack of Bears news and analysis around here lately, but don't worry, that's going to change- starting right now.
Reports from the national media all week have made it appear that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is doubtful to play on Monday night against the 49ers in San Francisco after suffering a concussion in the first half of the Bears' game against the Texans. It's Cutler's fourth known concussion, so getting medical clearance for a game just eight days after he suffered the latest concussion is going to be very difficult.
And after Cutler missed practiced on Thursday, it's looking more and more likely that he'll indeed be out for the showdown featuring two of the NFC's top teams.
Lovie Smith, however, is still optimistic that Cutler will be able to play:
"(Cutler) is feeling better, and it normally goes like that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You get better each day with an injury, with just how you're feeling. That's why you're optimistic, and you have to take it each day. We're hopeful (Friday) that he'll be better than he is today."
Asked if Cutler can play Monday if he does not practice, Smith said: "As a general rule, we would like for guys to (practice) at least by Friday; get some type of practice work in. But for some of our guys that have been around a while, if we get to game day and they haven't practiced and they feel like they can go, they'll play."Source: ESPN Chicago
This isn't a situation that will be messed around with, and even if Cutler is medically cleared to practice in the next day or two, the Bears may still play it safe with a quarterback they hope to have around for many more years. If he can't start, the Bears have a very capable backup quarterback in Jason Campbell that will start in his place.
And against a tremendous defense, on the road, in primetime, that may not be a bad thing. Cutler of course has the propensity to turn the ball over on occasion, and remember he threw five interceptions (and no touchdowns) in the Bears' 10-6 primetime loss at San Francisco in 2009.
Campbell, on the other hand, has only thrown over two interceptions in a game once in his NFL career, which includes 70 games started at quarterback. In 2008 with the Redskins, he led the NFL with the lowest 1.2 interception percentage. He is tied for fourth among active NFL quarterbacks in lowest career interception percentage at 2.3%, putting him only behind Aaron Rodgers (1.8), Tom Brady (2.1), and Matt Ryan (2.2).
Does Campbell have the the big-play ability and overall physical tools Cutler does? Definitely not, but against the 49ers' defense, and with the defense the Bears are playing this season, this game may just come down to not making mistakes (hey, the Texans game did). And Campbell's shown a great track record in that department.
Shea McClellin also misses practice Thursday due to concussion suffered on Sunday
Like Cutler, Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin is also waiting for medical clearance to return to the practice field. And like Cutler, he has a concussion history, as he suffered what was considered a 'serious' concussion in college at Boise State. So, there's no doubt the Bears are going to play it safe with their 2012 first-round pick, and make sure he is 100% okay before letting him play.
If McClellin can't go on Monday night, look for Cheta Ozoguwu (who impressed in preseason and recent practices according to reports) to be active.
Alshon Jeffery practices in limited fashion on Thursday
While the news isn't good for the prospects of Cutler and McClellin playing on Monday night, there is some good news on the Alshon Jeffery front. The rookie wide receiver practiced (albeit in limited fashion) on Thursday, and it appears he'll finally return to game action after suffering a broken hand against the Jaguars on October 7th.
Jeffery's presence in the passing game has been missed more than anybody could've anticipated, particularly in the red zone. Having a big, reliable target other than Brandon Marshall, could greatly help the passing game over the remainder of the season.
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