Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler got kicked in the throat during the third quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Saints,and the lingering aftermath of that hit might well impact this weekend's game against Green Bay.
As Cutler struggled to address the media at Halas Hall today, the thoughts of every reporter in the room fast forwarded to Soldier Field on Sunday.
"I'm sore. My throat still hurts," Cutler said so softly that microphones placed directly underneath his chin had problems recording his words.
Although Cutler reassured those present that his voice would return and he'd "feel okay" by the weekend, those who heard him were not quite as confident in that prognosis.
Just how important is it for a quarterback to be heard?
Well, judging by the 30-13 loss in a noisy Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, having your players hear the snap count and understand which play is being called is right up there on the list of things you want to go right. This is an issue that might easily resolve itself by Sunday and Cutler himself is hoping for the best.
WR Earl Bennett
Jerry Lai/US Presswire
Yet a number of other injuries to the Bears' roster might prove to be even more serious than Cutler's sudden forced silence.
Earl Bennett is dealing with chest soreness after taking a hard hit from Saints safety Roman Harper. Gabe Carimi is reported to have a dislocated right knee that will keep him out for this week at least, and possibly up to a month. Roy Williams may play against the Packers depending on the progress of a groin injury suffered in the season opener. Lance Louis went down with an ankle injury two weeks ago as well. Marion Barber's calf injury has kept him out the first two games, Chris Harris and Major Wright are still healing, and Corey Wootton's status against the Packers is still uncertain due to a knee injury.
It's a long list of banged up players for it being so early in the season. Yet tight end Matt Spaeth thinks it will all come together for the team this weekend, regardless of who is actually on the field for Chicago.
"It's designed like that," Spaeth said. "You expect injuries to occur and although I am relatively new to this team, I see great depth at every position. Players know they will need to step up and that's exactly what they'll do."
With so many players banged up, some rookies and untested veterans are going to receive expanded playing time, yet Spaeth said that shouldn't negatively affect the team.
"It shouldn't," he said. "In this business, every single game is important. You don't just pick out one or two that you decide you absolutely have to win. You come out there every single Sunday knowing that your job is tied to a successful outcome."
Although Spaeth hasn't participated in this particular rivalry, he does understand what fierce competition is all about, having won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I've been in the league a while," he said. "I know about must-win situations. But I can see the intensity growing here in the locker room. It's an unfortunate situation with Jay's voice problem and all the injuries to starters. It's a must-win game because every game is a must win. Guys are going to have to step up to compensate. But it's still early in the week. Players we might think right now are going to be out could be ready to go. Jay might be making speeches by Saturday night. You just never know."
Bears fans are hoping Spaeth is right and the team can step up Sunday against the league's top offense and a defense that Cutler categorizes as "potentially explosive." A win would put Chicago at 2-1, a record that, considering their opponents, could be the foundation for a playoff-caliber season. A record of 1-2 would give the team much shakier ground upon which to build.
Cutler remains optimistic.
"It's too early in the season with too many ups and downs to categorize this team as heading in one direction or another," Cutler said. "We haven't defined ourselves yet. My feeling on this? We'll be okay."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.