Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs will miss Monday night's home game against Dallas.
Coach Marc Trestman on Thursday said Cutler remains out with a high ankle sprain, while Briggs will not return from a shoulder fracture. Cutler practiced on a limited basis Thursday while Briggs went through conditioning work on the sidelines, but did not practice.
Josh McCown will make his fifth start in Cutler's absence, and Trestman couldn't be certain whether Cutler will be available the following week at Cleveland.
"From the work today, it just looks like he's progressing," Trestman said of Cutler. "I haven't talked to him specifically about it, but he seemed to work through the practice very well. He did the things that the trainers have asked him to do, but didn't overdo it."
Cutler has been out with the ankle sprain since the final series of the Bears' 21-19 loss to the Detroit Lions Nov. 10. He had also missed one game with a torn groin muscle. Trestman did not see Cutler's inability to play this week as a setback in terms of his recovery.
"Jay is very clear on where he is medically," Trestman said. "He's continuing to progress. I think we've been very, very clear that he's got to be released by the doctors before he can play, and he's come to terms with that. He's a strong-willed and strong-minded guy.
"He can't control this decision on Monday other than to continue to work at his rehab."
Trestman has said he's certain Cutler will play again this year, and Thursday said nothing has changed. He added Cutler has maintained a positive attitude throughout the injury process.
"He's preparing as if he's playing each and every week He's been great during the games and during the time he spends with Josh and the quarterbacks," Trestman said. "He hasn't flinched at all. I'm sure he's very frustrated that he is not playing certainly. But he hasn't let that reflect in his attitude or in his demeanor in the locker room or in our meetings."
McCown has a quarterback rating of 103.6 on the season and has thrown for 707 yards the past two weeks, but the Bears lost to St. Louis and Minnesota and had trouble turning all the yardage into scores. Cutler has an 88.3 passer rating in eight starts but the Bears average almost six points more per game when he is in the lineup.
"I think they both do a great job, different personalities definitely inside the huddle, when the call comes in and the way they go through their reads," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "Jay has a stronger arm and can do different things with just his arm strength, rely on his arm strength, and Josh relies on timing and being where we need to be.
"So Jay could make some throws that Josh may not be able to make in some different situations, but they both do a great job for us, and it shows. Every single week we've still been putting up numbers no matter who's there."
Defense has been the chief problem for Chicago, with Briggs, cornerback Charles Tillman (torn triceps), linebacker D.J. Williams (pectoral muscle) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (torn ACL) all out. Briggs' return was expected to be a boost for a defense that has been shredded for an average of 205.2 yards rushing over the last six games.
"With the injuries, that's what makes it tough," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "Of course, we never want guys to go down. There doesn't have to be a reason or why, that's just how the game goes.
"We've got to have our young guys and some of the other guys step up and play a lot better."
The Bears did get some help on the defensive line last week when injured nose tackle Stephen Paea returned from injury and former Cowboys defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff played for the first time since November, 2012 because of a torn groin muscle. Ratliff is anxious to get on the field again, but not because he'll be facing the team that let him go while he was rehabbing an injury. It's more a question now of whether Ratliff can regain the talent level that put him in the Pro Bowl.
"Since I've been in this league there's been a lot of questions ... 'He's too small. He's a seventh-rounder. He won't make the team,' " Ratliff said. "I mean, the odds are always stacked against you.
"That's good. It's motivation for me. And I look forward to it."