Football

Bears' Cutler to start against Lions

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Jay Cutler's time away proved shorter than the Chicago Bears originally expected.

After missing one game, the quarterback will return Sunday to face the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field following a groin tear suffered Oct. 20. Team officials originally expected Cutler to be out four weeks and then be assessed week to week, but doctors cleared Cutler to play Thursday and he practiced without a problem.

"As soon as I got hurt, I felt like I'd be back quicker than they thought," Cutler said. "I kind of had that mindset." Coach Marc Trestman saw no reason to believe the team is pushing its starter back onto the field too soon.

"He had an excellent practice," Trestman said. "He moved around. We worked the entire game plan today: our movements, climbing the pocket, throwing the football, down the field, short throws, everything. He did everything today."

Cutler does not view his quick return as a gamble. He credited the use of an Athletic Rehabilitation and Performance machine (ARP), a device that helps heal soft tissue, with his rapid recovery. "If I wasn't back to 100 percent, or if they had any doubts, I wouldn't have been able to practice today," he said. "That was the stipulation."

The Bears had a bye after their 45-41 loss to Washington, which provided some extra time for Cutler to recover. He suffered the injury with 10 minutes left in the first half of the Washington game on a sack, and backup Josh McCown completed the contest, then played all of Monday night's 27-20 win at Green Bay.

Cutler is slated to become a free agent after this season, but called his contract status no factor in coming back so soon. "I haven't worried about my contract," he said. "I haven't worried about it, period. That stuff takes care of itself somehow some way.

"So my biggest thing was just helping Josh last week to make sure, even though I knew he would be ready, to make sure I could help him in anyway, and then get back as soon as possible so I could help those guys."

McCown completed 36 of 61 for 476 yards and did not turn the ball over as Cutler's replacement. He had a passer rating of 100.2. Cutler has completed 146 of 225 for 1,658 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He has a passer rating of 91.7.

McCown said he had no problem returning to the sidelines after playing so well. "Jay got hurt and I served my team by playing and doing what I could to help us win a ballgame, and then play effective football when I was in there," McCown said. "When he's healthy, he comes back and he's the starter and that's how it goes. That's how we operate."

McCown said he will take no snaps with the first team this week at practice, as is normal with backup quarterbacks with the Bears and many NFL teams. Trestman said he wasn't sure yet if he will have third quarterback Jordan Palmer active as a precaution Sunday.

Cutler's worst game of the season came facing Detroit and a Lions pass rush spearheaded by Ndamukong Suh at Ford Field on Sept. 29. The Bears lost 40-32 and Cutler turned the ball over three times, including two interceptions and a lost fumble that resulted in a touchdown.

"We've just got to do a good job up front and we've got to be able to have the ability to move the quarterback around and get away from the rush, and we'll try to do that, as well," Trestman said. "Overall, we've got to play a cleaner game. We gave the defense the ball in our territory too many times, four times, one on special teams and three times offensively. We gave up a touchdown."

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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