Updated with announcement that Cutler will have surgery.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will have surgery to repair his broken right thumb, but Coach Lovie Smith expects him to play again this season.
Smith said that Cutler would be out for “an extended time” and offered no details on when the operation would occur. He was, however, specific about Cutler’s prognosis.
“Is it a season-ending injury? No,” Smith said. “From what I’ve been told right now, we can expect him back at the end of the regular season.”
The Bears’ regular-season finale is Jan. 1 against the Vikings in Minnesota. At 7-3, the team has won five games in a row.
“It’s devastating,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “It’s horrible, and I felt worse for him than I did for us. It stinks for us because he’s having such a great year. He’s our leader. He’s the guy we turn to for pretty much everything.”
Cutler was injured as he tried to tackle Antoine Cason, who’d intercepted his pass with 10 minutes, 3 seconds left in the game. Chargers linebacker Donald Butler blocked him; Matt Forte kept Cason from scoring. Smith added that Cutler would see specialists this morning.
“Maybe Jay's biggest play of the game came on that interception, buying time for Matt Forte,” Smith said Sunday. “Who would have thought we'd be talking about Matt Forte and Jay Cutler on a defensive play they made?”
Cutler, who was defended by teammates and coaches when his toughness was questioned in the NFC Championship game in January, remained in the game and said nothing about the injury in his postgame press conference. He spoke only about a play in which he was kneed in the back of the head in the head — his helmet flew off — in the third quarter.
“I was fine,” Cutler said Sunday.
Although Smith said the Bears are “still a good football team and plan on winning,” they’ll have to do it with Caleb Hanie, who played in the title game after Cutler hurt his knee. Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
He’s an unrestricted free agent after the season, which now suddenly means everything for him.
At this point, the Bears would seem to be in the market for a quarterback with some experience. They are not, however, alone with QB injuries across the NFL. In Houston, Coach Gary Kubiak said the Texans worked out Jeff Garcia, Trent Edwards, Brodie Croyle and Kellen Clemens. Kubiak did not indicated whether any would be signed.