All right. Good afternoon. Just to kind of give you some feedback on the day. In our morning meeting, Robbie kind of got a group of guys together to go down south and see the tornado victims and did a great job of getting our guys together. A bunch of guys went down and got some great perspective and had a chance to help out. I give Robbie a lot of credit for that. Just to take the time to do that. Early in the week. Yesterday. We went inside today. The guys got a good sweat up after three days off. It was an energetic practice. And we'll plan on going outside tomorrow and get started with our outdoor work. Jay was limited today. He got some work. You saw that. He won't play this week. He's still progressing. He's worked very very hard to get to this point. Josh will start. So I just wanted to make sure that's clear from the beginning. I knew you'd want to know that. And he's working his way back. And that's a good thing.
Lance worked out today but didn't practice. We held Brandon out. He's got a little bit of a quad. So we held him out. Anthony Walters was back working limited today. Major Wright came back, practiced today and was limited. Got some work in. We're optimistic there. And Kyle had an ankle, went out and practiced a full complement of practice today. I'll leave it open to questions.
DO YOU KNOW IF CUTLER WILL PLAY NEXT WEEK?
I don't. He won't suit up on Monday. As I said, he did work today. He did some more work in the skelly against our defense with cards. Josh got all the work with the first group today.
PLANNING TO SHUT HIM DOWN PERMANENTLY?
No. From the work today, it just looks like he's progressing. I haven't talked to him specifically about it. But he seemed to work through the practice very well. He did the things that the trainers have asked him to do but didn't overdo it.
IS THIS A SETBACK?
I don't feel … It's been week-to-week. We want to be very, very careful. As I said, I was encouraged today just by the work that he got in considering the injury wasn't that long ago. So we'll see where he is next week. But it was a good first day for him to come out and get some work. I thought he threw the ball very, very well.
BRIGGS? ANY CHANCE HE'LL PLAY?
I would say there's no chance that Lance will play this week. He's in the conditioning process. He ran quite a bit today. He'll see the doctors early in the week next week and they'll see where he's at.
WHAT'S CUTLER BEEN LIKE?
He's been awesome. He's been an awesome teammate. He's been great in the quarterback room. He's preparing as if he's playing each and every week He's been great during the games and during the time he spends with Josh and the quarterbacks. He hasn't flinched at all. I'm sure he's very frustrated that he is not playing certainly. But he hasn't let that reflect in his attitude or in his demeanor in the locker room or in our meetings.
WHEN HE'S BACK, HE'S THE STARTER?
WILL HE HAVE TO START FROM SQUARE ONE?
Oh I don't know. I'm not going to reflect. I won't reflect. I can't anticipate how he's going to be. I just know that he's working towards that. He's working on the mental preparation as well. It was good to see him out there working today. He made some throws.
STRUGGLES IN SHORT YARDAGE. DO THE LINEMEN TAKE IT SERIOUSLY BECAUSE IT'S ALL ABOUT BEING PHYSICAL?
Yeah, it's a physical element but it's also a mental element. You've got to be assignment right. Our mistakes have not been a question of effort or being out-manned or anything like that. Ours have been simply the three or four times we haven't gotten it done, whether it's goal line or short yardage, we've just got to do a better job in making sure we're blocking the right guys. We're going to get out-physicalled at times – teams do. But we feel it's more just making sure that assignment wise, we're sharp. All five guys plus our tight ends plus our backs all have to be doing the right thing, and we haven't gotten it done. It's difficult to make a yard in this league like that, and we've got to do a better job. Certainly, with recent events, we have to do a better job.
TALK ABOUT MCCOWN'S MISTAKES AGAINST THE VIKINGS
I can only think of one specifically that happened. We were backed up, 20-yard line, second down and long. As I said to him, I put him in that position with the play call. I think I could have done a better job with that. And then he's got to take care of the ball, certainly, once the play is called, and he didn't do the kind of job he wanted to with that specific play. Overall, as you said, I think he's been very efficient. There comes times when quarterbacks are stressed, they do things that are a little bit out of character, but he's taken a lot of snaps, he's handled himself extremely well, and I think that those one or two times, they can happen to anybody playing that position. The good part about it is he seems to be able to overcome those things and move on quickly, and that's the biggest thing, what happens on the next play.
CUTLER SAID HE WANTED TO PLAY THIS WEEK. THOUGHTS?
There's a lot of clarity to Jay's and our communication. Jay is very clear on where he is medically. He's continuing to progress. I think we've been very, very clear that he's got to be released by the doctors before he can play, and he's come to terms with that. He's a strong-willed and strong-minded guy. He can't control this decision on Monday other than to continue to work at his rehab, and I don't see any sense that it's going to be reflected in his play once he is able to come back. I don't see that at all.
COWBOYS DEFENSE SIMILAR TO YOURS?
Well, they're a single safety team. They've played mostly post safety, or single safety, man or zone. That's what they're doing there with their players. They've got corners that are man-to-man play corners – they do a lot of man to man. When they're not in man to man, it's still single safety, and those guys are off, playing single safety zone coverages. So, they're not a Cover-2 team. They have Cover-2. They certainly could play more of it on Monday night. We haven't seen that. We've seen them as what we call a post safety or a single safety team, and their change up is to throw some Cover-2 and some Tampa-2, but that's not what they have done recently. Could that change Monday night? Certainly, and we have to be prepared for that. And we do the same. We're a Cover-2 team that plays single safety, as well. But that's what they're doing right now.
VALUE TO PRACTICING OUTSIDE?
Yeah, I just said that our plan will be to go outside.
Well certainly it starts with the quarterback and it starts with Dez Bryant. It's going to start there. They've had game where they've run the ball effectively in a tandem group, they've got a community group there, both guys run the ball the well. They've got a tight end that is a go-to player for them in Witten and they've got a difference-making player in Dez Bryant. So they've got a lot going on. They can run it well. They have the ability to throw it well. They've got a difference-making quarterback who can plays and who can finish games. Tony Romo is a lot to handle and it starts there with him because he can plays with his arm, he can plays with his feet and he can make plays when there are no plays to be made, he'll find a way to make them. So that's going to be a lot to handle. I think our guys are up to the challenge but that's where it starts.
HOW CAN BEARS STOP ROMO IF THEY CAN'T STOP CASSEL?
Well Cassel made some tremendous plays, No. 1. The touchdown he threw in the corner of the end zone, Julius was all over him, just getting ready to make the tackle and he made an awkward throw and made the play. The fourth-down play, he had James Anderson right in his face and he wound up making the play so Cassel made those plays under duress and certainly Tony Romo can do the same. We've got to be a little bit tighter in our coverage and play a little better and get more pressure on the quarterback when we can. It's really the same issues, put pressure on the quarterback, stop the run the first and make them one-dimensional and then of course try to put the pressure on the quarterback to make a mistake. He certainly can do that [what Cassel did]. He's been playing well. He's had a very, very good season. It won't be easy. We know that. But I know our guys are excited about the challenge. I do know that.
BEARS DEFENSE PLAYED WELL IN 1ST QUARTER AGAINST VIKINGS. HOW DO YOU GET THEM TO DO THAT FOR FOUR QUARTERS?
I think we've could helped maintain that pressure by playing better offensively. We had three sacks on three third downs. We hit the quarterback. That had a residual effect on the game. No. 1, the quarterback was out of the game. It wasn't directly related to that but he had to leave the game. We had to pressure him. But we didn't handle the field position. We didn't carry the momentum offensively to be able to create more pressure and to build more energy and to put them in a more stressful position having to throw the football. And that's part of it. It's not just one side. Offensively, we didn't take the opportunity of field position and the advantage to create some momentum based on our defense's play early on in the game, specifically on the first three possessions.
ON ESTABLISHING THE TEAM'S MINDSET THIS WEEK
We set our goal that we've got one game to play and that's on Monday night. It's a prime-time game. We've done very well in prime time this year. We did it against Pittsburgh. We did it against Green Bay. And we did it against the Giants. We came out, we played hard, we played consistently, we played a clean game. And we're the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night so our focus is … we had three days to put the last game behind us. Our guys did a great job of that coming in today. They were clear-minded. They focused in on what we've got to do Monday night and that's really been how we've done it each and every week, just trying to compartmentalize everything. We can't control the weekend. We can't control Sunday. Whatever happens Sunday we can't control. What we control is showing up Monday night and being at our best and doing everything we can to beat the Cowboys and that was the essence of morning meeting and setting the tone for the week.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.