Before the start of the Chicago Bears’ Monday Night Football game against their divisional rival Green Bay Packers, it was announced that quarterback Jay Cutler had planned to return early. How early? He anticipated attempting to play next Sunday against the Detroit Lions — just three weeks after suffering a torn muscle in his groin.
At first, Bears fans may rejoice. It’s an exciting bit of news to hear that your quarterback could be returning sooner than originally thought. But, when you think about it, his early return could absolutely harm not only the Bears’ playoff chances, but Cutler’s health overall and his chances to earn a fat contract next offseason.
Cutler has not had enough practice time just yet — it’s that simple. He has not been participating in full contact practice nearly long enough to warrant him starting on Sunday against Detroit. If he does, he puts his health in danger and runs the risk of furthering the damage to his original injury.
First of all, if that were to happen, it would give the Packers and Lions all the more opportunity to take hold of the division. Of course, the Bears have proven to put points up with Josh McCown at the helm, but it’s Cutler that has the tools and toughness to lead a playoff run toward the end of the season. I don’t see McCown doing that, nor would he be the reason the Bears win in the playoffs.
Secondly, Cutler’s in the last year of his contract and during this next offseason he is hoping to land a big contract from Phil Emery and the Bears organization, earning the trust to be their franchise quarterback for years to come. Head coach Marc Trestman was brought in to harness Cutler’s ability, and thus far has done so. But, if Cutler further damages his injury and misses more time, his future leverage with the team will definitely drop.
If Cutler holds out until after the Lions game, the Bears will be much better off and Cutler will have a much easier time getting back into the groove. Chicago faces three sub-.500 teams immediately after the Lions: The Baltimore Ravens, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings. That could bode very well for Cutler once he is back and healthy.
If he were to return early, the only way fans, coaches and the organization should support it is if he is 100 percent cleared by doctors to play and feels 100 percent himself. Otherwise, he’s got to wait it out — period.