LAKE FOREST – The moment Bears quarterback Jay Cutler stepped to the podium at Halas Hall on Wednesday, he braced himself for the inevitable.
Cutler endured six questions surrounding his recovery from a concussion with his answers eventually reducing to one-word responses.
How much better do you feel now than a week ago?
“How many one-word answers can I give?” Cutler asked exasperated, though smiling. “A lot.”
Cutler still doesn’t know if he will play Sunday at Soldier Field against the Minnesota Vikings because there are hurdles that must be cleared. However, he has been cleared to practice on a limited basis, which is the first step to returning to the field.
“Before he can play, he has to be cleared by an independent neurologist,” coach Lovie Smith said. “And we’re not to that point. It’s about practice right now.”
Watching Monday’s 32-7 beat down in San Francisco from home wasn’t easy to watch given the offense’s struggles, particularly the offensive line. If the line continues playing as it did against the 49ers, wins will be few and far between, but Cutler said they’re capable of playing much better.
“It’s a different prospective,” Cutler said. “When you’re in it, you’re invested, you put in a whole week and you’re in the moment. It’s a little bit different than watching it on TV and just kind of watching it as a fan and watching it unfold. Whether it’s beneficial, I don’t know.
“When you get hurt, it’s an isolated feeling,” Cutler added. “Your identity with the team is gone and it’s a helpless feeling not being able to help them and not be where you want to be, out there with the guys.”
Well aware of the long-term risks associated with concussions, Cutler trusts the Bears’ trainers and doctors to make the best decisions regarding his current and future health. Cutler disagreed with the idea that the NFL should implement a mandatory one-week off after suffering a concussion.
“Every person’s different, every hit’s different,” Cutler said. “I don’t think you can give a blanket protocol of a week off. I think it’s not fair to the players.”
Whenever Cutler gets full clearance to return to game action, it won’t solve all of the offense’s woes. But clearly the Bears are better when Cutler is under center.
“God I hope so. I do. I really do,” offensive coordinator Mike Tice said of Cutler returning Sunday. “Not anything against Jason (Campbell). Jason did a remarkable job based on the opportunities he was afforded. But it would be great to get our guy back.”
There’s legitimate concern about putting Cutler back on the field behind a suspect offensive line given the concussion concerns. Smith understands that after the line’s terrible performance against the 49ers on Monday why such concern would exist. However, he expects the line to show improvement after another week of practice.
“We don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way,” Smith said. “Jay, Jason or anybody else. That’s the plan this week.”
Bears bits: Smith confirmed receiver Alshon Jeffery will be out 2-4 weeks after a scope on his knee Wednesday morning. … The Bears did not practice Wednesday, but if they had, tight end Kellen Davis (ankle) and receiver Brandon Marshall (sore shoulder) would have been out. … Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin (concussion) is on track to play Sunday against the Vikings after missing Monday’s game.