Bears coach Lovie Smith says he feels confident injured quarterback Jay Cutler will return before the end of the regular season. As for backup starter Caleb Hanie, Smith said he has faith in him.
Lovie Smith confirmed this afternoon that Jay Cutler broke his thumb on the interception return tackle, and that he will have surgery soon. The plan is to get him back for late in the season, but until then, Caleb Hanie will start at QB.
Smith said that both he and the team are confident in Hanie's abilities.
"Don't feel sorry for us," he said.
Every other player on the team will have to raise their play to make up for the absence of Cutler, who Smith called, "a great leader." The Bears also plan to bring in a veteran QB to back up Hanie because the team likes to have three quarterbacks available. Nathan Enderle, a rookie out of Idaho, is the other QB on the Bears roster.
Now, it's up to Hanie to keep the Bears afloat while Cutler convalesces. He hasn't thrown a pass in a meaningful game since the NFC Championship game in January. After Cutler left with a knee injury, Hanie came in and threw for 156 yards and a touchdown, and was picked off twice by the Packers. He has been with the Bears for four years, and been a part of the Martz offense as long as Cutler.
Defense, special teams and the running game will be key in keeping the Bears playoff hopes alive. It's possible for the Bears to win on the back of a great defensive performance, as they did against the Eagles, or because of the work of Matt Forte, as they did against Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Injuries never come at a good time, but this one could end up being not too poorly timed. Of the six games the Bears have left to play, four are against teams with records of .500 or lower. If the Bears win three of those games, the playoffs are likely. Smith said that the injury is not season-ending, meaning that if Hanie can get the Bears to the playoffs, Cutler could be back for those games.
Smith said to not feel sorry for the team, and that's a command that Bears fans should follow. It may seem dark, but that always happens before the dawn.