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Bears QB Jay Cutler returns to practice

Jay Cutler was removed from Game 2 with a sprained thumb. (AP)

Jay Cutler took the first step toward returning from a right thumb sprain Wednesday, practicing on a limited basis at Halas Hall.

In his first on-field action since leaving Game 2 nine days earlier, the Bears quarterback stretched and did only some light throwing in the portion of practice open to the media. He did not wear a brace on his thumb like he did last week, and kept it warm by placing it in a muff positioned on a belt around his waist.

Backup Brian Hoyer, who started Sunday, said he was practicing as if he would start — but that’s not an indication of Cutler’s likelihood to participate against the Lions. Sources told the Sun-Times the quarterback first hurt his thumb in the season-opener; a three-week return from that point is within reason.

“It’s a day-to-day thing,” Hoyer said. “For me, I’m everyday trying to prepare to play. Whatever his status is, until somebody tells me different, I’m just preparing like I’m gonna play. If he was playing, I would prepare the same way.

“It was good to have him back out and be out there. For me, it really doesn’t change anything. Whether he was cleared or not, it’s a day-to-day thing, and that’s how I look at it.”

Bears coach John Fox, who had a stomach bug, wasn’t around to answer Cutler questions. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who filled in for Fox by speaking to the team before and after practice, sounded like his boss when asked about Cutler’s progress.

“What quarterback?” he said.

That drew laughter.

“I don’t have an update to give you,” he said. “Want me to make one up?”

Hoyer was serviceable in his first start with the Bears, completing 30-of-49 passes for 317 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions or sacks. The Bears trailed 17-0 before starting their third offensive drive, though, throwing their game plan went out the window and making an accurate judgment of Hoyer’s performance harder to ascertain.

Hoyer said it was more challenging for him to throw while the Bears played catch-up because “the defense knows what’s going to happen, too.”

“It’s play-by-play, drive-by-drive,” Hoyer said. “At a certain point the game kinda declares itself, and like you said, we have to start throwing it a lot. That’s’ the way it’s been.

“You’d like, obviously, to be more balanced, but the game declares itself and you’re behind, you have to throw the football.”

As for who throws it against the Lions: Cutler is getting closer, though there’s no guarantee — at least this early in the week — that he’ll start.

“You just have to keep improving,” Hoyer said. “No one’s going to feel sorry for us. Everybody has injuries. Unfortunately it’s part of the business.

“Everyone has to step up. Not only does the guy who’s replacing someone have to step up, but the guys around him have to step up as well. That’s kinda the nature of the beast.”