Cutler, Tillman latest setbacks for injury-ravaged Bears

The SportsXchange

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears have lost quarterback Jay Cutler for at least this week and likely longer due to a high ankle sprain, and cornerback Charles Tillman is lost for the remainder of the regular season due to a torn right triceps muscle.

"It just so happened, the injury bug, it has a hold of our team for some reason," Tillman said.

Cutler returned ahead of schedule from a groin tear to start Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions, but was injured again when a defender rolled up his ankle early in the second quarter of the 21-19 loss. He stuck around all game and the Bears eliminated movement plays from their game plan, but by the end of the next-to-last drive he was throwing passes into the grass and was unable to scramble.

"We taped it up and it was stiff, but I felt like I could go as long as I kept some movement in it," Cutler said. "It got worse and worse as we went on."

The Bears appear better equipped to replace Cutler than Tillman at this point.

The defense already is without linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder fracture), linebacker D.J. Williams (pectoral muscle tear) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (ACL tear). Tillman and Briggs have been Pro Bowl players. Former starter Zack Bowman steps in for Tillman.

As for Cutler, high ankle sprains typically can take three weeks or more to heal. Cutler was able to get through Sunday's game on it, but it swelled up badly on him by Monday morning.

Josh McCown has a 103.2 passer rating with 42 completions in 70 attempts for 538 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions when replacing Cutler this season. McCown led a touchdown march that would have resulted in overtime if the Lions had not snuffed out a two-point conversion run by Matt Forte on Sunday.

McCown has started 20 drives this season, and the Bears have scored on 10 of them.

Still, Cutler is a gifted, strong-armed starter who ads downfield dimensions the Bears lack with McCown under center.

Going forward with Cutler's health, coach Marc Trestman has to weigh what percentage of Cutler less than 100 percent is better than 100 percent of McCown when he decides to bring back his starter.

"I can't do it through mathematics," Trestman said. "It's just a feel thing."

"It's not percentages," he added. "He's our starting quarterback, he's our leader. If it's in the best interest of the football team and he can move the team and not hurt himself or the team, we want him to be in there and he wants to be in there."

Tillman is a free agent after this season and if they miss the playoffs it's possible he doesn't return to the Bears. Often in Chicago it has been suggested Tillman should move to free safety, because of his coverage ability and the team's trouble finding a standout free safety since Mike Brown's career ended.

"I think my athleticism is still there to play corner in this league, whether it be for the Bears or somebody else," Tillman said. "But I still think I have some corner left in me."
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