It was a 3rd and 8 play in the fourth quarter of the Bears' Week 11 matchup with the San Diego Chargers when Chicago's season got flipped on its head. Jay Cutler looked to his left for Johnny Knox on a slant pattern and fired the ball. Only Knox fell down and Antoine Cason easily intercepted the pass. Cutler was able to chase down and tackle the defender, saving the team a touchdown, but he broke his thumb in the process.
Speaking with the press today for the first time since the injury, Cutler said he had no idea how bad it was after the play had ended.
"I was pissed at Johnny about the pick so coming off the field I didn't really notice," he said. "I was more worried about talking to him in a calm manner. After I settled down and went back on the field, I knew there was something definitely wrong and it was kind of serious. I didn't really imagine I'd have to have surgery."
Cutler cracked the bone at the base of his thumb, what is commonly referred to as a "Bennett's" fracture. He also dislocated the joint but said there was no ligament damage.
The initial timetable given for his recovery was six-to-eight weeks, which would put him back on the field in the first round of the playoffs at the earliest. The surgery took place last Wednesday, so at this early stage it's still anyone's guess when he might be able to return to action.
QB Jay Cutler
Kelley L. Cox/US Presswire
"We'll have to take it week by week, take some x-rays and CT scans the next couple weeks and see if the bone's healing like it should be," Cutler said. "I don't want to put a real number on it because I just don't know."
The surgery involved inserting three screws and two pins into the finger. Cutler said the pins will be removed sometime in the next two-to-nine weeks, depending on how it heals. The screws will stay permanently.
"It's just a matter if they're not hindering me throwing the ball, if I'm comfortable, there's a lot of factors. Whether I play or not just all depends on how I feel."
There aren't a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL who would put forth the effort Cutler did in saving that touchdown. Yet that play could cost him the remainder of the season. Still, he said it would be hard for him to play any differently.
"In that instance, we were playing so well, having such a good game, but as soon as I let it go, I knew we were in trouble. I took off running because I knew Johnny was down. That's just how I play football. It's going to be hard for me to change that."
Caleb Hanie took over under center this past weekend, yet his three first-half interceptions were too much for the Bears to overcome in the loss to the Raiders. Cutler said it's all a learning experience for Hanie at this point.
"It's hard to come in as a backup. The expectations are high for him. He's been in the system but still, he hasn't really experienced a lot of these plays in a game situation. I can only tell him so much. He's got to go out there and learn for himself; that's the hard part.
"We've just got to be really careful what kind of situations we put him in. Mike [Martz has] got be careful with that. We don't really know what Caleb's comfortable with; Caleb doesn't know what he's comfortable with. He hasn't run a lot of these plays, hasn't run a lot of this stuff in the offense in game situations, in high-pressure situations."
He said he felt Hanie showed progress as the game wore on, which gives the offense hope going forward.
"That second half was night and day from the first half. Things were moving pretty quickly for him in that first half and once he settle down, he started to play pretty well."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.