Bears coach Lovie Smith sounded like he was trying to talk Bears fans off the ledge when discussing Jay Cutler’s broken thumb Monday.
”We have a good football team,” Smith said at a news conference at Halas Hall. ”Our football team is not based on one player. We have a lot of good football players and they’re going to all step up. We’ll be fine.”
The Bears announced that Cutler will be out ”an extended period of time” after suffering a broken thumb on his throwing (right) hand in Sunday’s 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field. But Smith emphasized that it is his understanding that Cutler will return before the end of the season, and in time for the playoffs if the 7-3 Bears qualify.
Fourth-year pro Caleb Hanie will start at quarterback against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in Oakland. With rookie Nathan Emnderle the only other healthy quarterback on the roster,Smith said the Bears will try to sign a veteran quarterback to back up Hanie.
”The plan is to get [Cutler] back at the latter part of the regular season,” Smith said. ”Caleb Hanie will move into the starting-quarterback role. Caleb’s been around here a long time and the team feels comfortable with him leading us.
”There’s a lot of good things happening. Don’t feel sorry for us or anything like that. We have a lot of things in place. We’re losing and we’re going to miss a great player for a period of time. We will miss Jay, but we will keep his spot warm and we’re going to continue to win with Caleb.”
Smith acknowledged that he doesn’t expect Hanie to be as integral to the offensive production as Cutler, who has had passer ratings of 96.9 or above in four of his last six games. In Sunday’s victory over the Chargers, Cutler was 18-of-31 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception, which happened when receiver Johnny Knox slipped on the Soldier Field turf. That one play alone dropped his rating from 111.3 to 97.0.
“Offensively we’re going to rely on our running game a little more,” Smith sid. ”We have a great defense and special teams. You know how we win football games around here, so that will be the case.”
Though losing Cutler is a blow, if it turns out that he can return later in the season, especially if the Bears make the playoffs, the news Monday was not as bad as it could have been.
”My glass is half-full, of course,” Smith said. ”Yes, I’m looking at it that way — Jay is coming back. In the meantime, we have business to take care of.”