Cutler's thumb bad news for Bears

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler watches the action against the Green Bay Packers from the sideline during the second half of the NFC Championship NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

November 21, 2011 9:15:27 PM PST
Sunday's victory against the San Diego Chargers came at a cost for the Chicago Bears -- quarterback Jay Cutler, who is out with a broken thumb.

Cutler broke his right thumb while trying to tackle Antoine Cason during an interception in the fourth quarter by the Chargers' defensive back and may be out the rest of the regular Bears season. Bears head Coach Lovie Smith didn't say much about Cutler's actual injury or say when he'd be back.

"Injury is always a part of it and that is the case right now. As most of you know, yesterday on the interception return, Jay Cutler fractured his right thumb. It is unfortunate but it was a great play by him and Matt Forte, of course, saving the touchdown, but again, injuries are part of it. The plan is to get him back at the latter part of the regular season," Lovie Smith said.

"It's devastating. It's horrible. I feel worse for him than us. He had such a great year, and he's our leader. He's a guy we turn to almost everything. It's bad for us, for the team. It's worse for him as an individual. He's having a great year. It stinks. He's pretty upset about it, I'm sure. It's not going to be a fun process. To me, we have to be better on defense. We have to step on the defensive play better," said Brian Urlacher.

Caleb Hanie will take on the role of quarterback for the Bears.

"Caleb did a great job for us last year and in the playoffs against Carolina. We have to play better on defense. That's all there is to it," Urlacher added.

"Don't feel sorry for us or anything like. We have a lot of things in place. We're going to miss a great player for a period of time that offensively we're going to rely on our running game a little bit more, our defense, we have a great defense, and special teams, you know how we win football games around here, so that will be the case," Coach Smith said.

Doctor talks about thumb surgery

Smith would not reveal when Cutler would have surgery on his thumb or what kind of surgery that would be -- but it could be as early as Tuesday. The Bears have not said what part of Cutler's thumb was injured, but an orthopedic surgeon recommends fixing the problem now.

"If it's not properly treated now, it's not the kind of injury that you can go back and on fix easily later. That's why there is a sense of urgency in trying to fix the fracture now versus waiting org delaying the treatment," said Dr. John Fernandez, Rush University Medical Center orthopedic surgeon, said.

Dr. Fernandez is not treating Cutler, but he is considered an expert on hand injuries and has performed surgeries for both Chicago White Sox players and the Chicago Bulls -- most notable Joakim Noah. Dr. Fernandez says Cutler's fracture is the type that requires surgery sooner than later.

"When it involves the base of the thumb, they're treated in a similar way, which is to put the fractured fragments back in place and then we use a pin or nail to hold those fracture fragments in place while they're healing and then after it is healed, usually about six weeks, the pins are then later removed so that additional range of motion and strengthening can be used. But you can see how it would affect a throwing athlete like Jay Cutler because basically the thumb is involved in 50-percent of the function when the thumb is opening up to grab a football and it is applying pressure to squeeze that football you're putting a significant amount of force across the joint," Dr. Fernandez said.

Cutler finished the game despite the injury to his thumb on his throwing hand, and comes as the team motors toward the NFC playoffs. It's believed, but not confirmed that the Bears QB will have surgery Tuesday.

"Like most professional athletes, he's pretty well tuned, so he may be quicker getting back than the average Joe, but still you want to protect it so when he's playing football and someone bashes into him that it doesn't break apart again," said Dr. Scott Rubenstein of the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute.

If Cutler gets a steel rod put in to stabilize his thumb, he could be out a minimum of six weeks, but that might mean he would be back by playoffs. The schedule favors the Bears, they visit Oakland, host Kansas City, travel to Denver and host Seattle over the next four weeks and those four teams are a combined 19 and 20.

Bears fans hope for quick recovery, look to Hanie

Meanwhile, Bears fan were feeling mixed emotions Monday: depressed, disappointed, but still optimistic.

"I think the Bears were quietly becoming a good team. People were underestimating them. They were beating the people they needed to beat. Now this lets you down," fan Joe Williams said.

"I think it's a negative for this year, and with the Green Bay Packers doing so well, I think the Bears are going to have an upward battle now. It is a plus for the Green Bay Packers but not for the Chicago Bears," fan Dawn Davis said.

"It kind of let a lot of air out of the sails. It was kind of disappointing. There had been a track to make the playoffs and do good things. So, yeah, it was pretty disappointing," fan Mike Pollitt said.

"I hope that they're wrong. Maybe it's a sprain, that he'll get better. If not, Hanie can do the job and defense will do fine," said fan Malcolm Thompson.

Marc Silverman, co-host of ESPN 1000's Waddle and Silvy Show, says while Cutler's injury is disappointing, he still believes the Bears have a shot at post-season play.

"Bottom line is, I hope the Bears win three or four games, get in the playoffs, Jay is able to play in that final game for the playoffs and maybe they still got a run," he said.

The Chicago Bears have won five games in a row. Cutler's play has been a big part of that, and the team continues to fight for a playoff spot.

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