LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman showed he can take a gamble with the best of them by going for a fourth-and-inches at his own 32-yard line in a game-clinching drive during the 27-20 Monday night win over the Green Bay Packers.
Whether Trestman is gambling again by starting quarterback Jay Cutler Sunday against the Detroit Lions remains to be seen. It could be a gamble in two ways. One is Cutler's health, although the Bears are convinced he's ready to play. The other is that pulling red hot backup Josh McCown could break the momentum the offense has generated.
Doctors gave Cutler permission to resume playing only 18 days after he suffered a torn groin muscle -- an injury which was expected to keep him out four weeks or longer.
"He's been cleared to play," Trestman said Thursday. "And if he couldn't do everything that a quarterback has to do in a game on an NFL Sunday, then he wouldn't be out there.
"As I said, he's been cleared because the doctors believe that there's nothing that he can't do physically to play the position. We would never put him out there if he wasn't cleared to do everything."
The Bears and team medical personnel fear no greater chance of Cutler aggravating the injury and missing more time than if he hadn't been hurt at all. So they don't see this as a gamble.
If there is any risk, it would seem an unnecessary one after McCown performed so well against Green Bay.
In just over six quarters as Cutler's replacement, McCown has completed 36 of 61 passes for 476 yards with a passer rating of 100.2. Not that Cutler has been struggling, with a 91.7 passer rating and 12 touchdown passes against seven interceptions, but facing the Detroit Lions means the Bears quarterback will need to be mobile because of the Lions' front four.
The Bears have simulated some pass rush situations for Cutler in practice so he could test whether he has the ability to quickly get out of the pocket.
"We've done enough to test where I'm at," Cutler said. "I feel good, got a lot of trust in the offensive line and the way they're playing right now (I) can't worry about that."
The Bears' offensive has looked far better protecting Cutler and McCown in the past three games than in the first five. They allowed nine sacks the first five games and only three over the past three contests. Also, the offense has been at 110 yards or more rushing in the past three games after an inconsistent start, and has turned it over only twice since the first loss to Detroit in Week 4 -- the Bears had nine turnovers their first four games.
Nevertheless, it appears risky to pull a quarterback out of the lineup who seemed to run the West Coast style at least as good or better than Cutler had.
"When he's healthy he comes back," McCown said of Cutler. "He's the starter and that's how it goes. That's how we operate."
Speculation has it that Cutler rushed back because of his contract status. He'll be a free agent after this season unless he gets a new deal.
"I haven't worried about my contract," Cutler said. "I haven't worried about it, period. That stuff takes care of itself somehow, some way."
Now the Bears have to hope Cutler can take care of Detroit, a team he has owned over the years with a 94.7 passer rating and 14 touchdowns to go against just four interceptions. Cutler has beaten the Lions seven out of the 10 starts he has had against them.
Injury status aside, a performance similar to when Cutler turned it over three times against Detroit in the 40-32 loss Sept. 29 could only lead to second-guessing of Trestman for putting Cutler back in the lineup when McCown was playing so well.
"I think those are mistakes that he learned from and hopefully I think we saw that as he moved on," Trestman said of Cutler. "We'll see this week."
--LS Patrick Mannelly missed practice due to a calf injury and is unlikely to play Sunday. He is slated to be replaced by Jeremy Cain.
--G James Brown missed Thursday's practice due to illness. Brown's absence is not a factor as he has not been active in a game this season.
--DT Jeremiah Ratliff missed Thursday's practice rehabbing from a groin muscle tear. Ratliff will not return to play until later in the season. It has been just over a year since the former Cowboy has played.
--LB Lance Briggs continues to miss practices due to a fractured shoulder and will not play Sunday. Rookie Khaseem Greene will get his second start in Briggs' place and strong-side linebacker James Anderson will take Briggs' signal calling duties for the defense.
--DE Shea McClellin was limited in practice Thursday as a result of a hamstring injury suffered against Green Bay. McClellin is coming off his best game in the NFL. He had half his career total of six sacks against the Packers.
--CB Charles Tillman had full participation in Thursday's practice. He had been limited Wednesday due to knee soreness.