The game that was supposed to classify the Chicago Bears as legitimate contenders in the National Football League ended in disappointment. But lets not be confused with the disappointment. The disappointment is not the fact that the Bears lost to the Houston Texans. In fact, take away a couple of dropped balls by Bears’ receivers and the Bears likely come away from Sunday night as the victors. But, the fact remains that they did not. While there seldom is a good thing about a loss; the fact that the Bears’ second loss of the season came during week 10 of the NFL season and against an AFC team in the Texans does not hurt the Bears position in either the NFC North division or the overall conference standings of the NFC.
What does hurt the Bears is the fact that their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, is dealing with yet another injury. Cutler was diagnosed with a concussion at halftime and consequently missed the remainder of the game. Depending on what you read, the concussion that Cutler sustained on Sunday was either his fourth or his sixth of his career between the NFL and college. Cutler last suffered a concussion during the 2010 NFL season with the Bears against the New York Giants. Cutler missed the following game against the Carolina Panthers.
Chicago Bears’ head coach Lovie Smith took to the podium on Monday to address Cutler’s status while also defending how the Bears handled the situation. Before we get to Smith’s explanation, lets paint the picture. Cutler is believed to have sustained the concussion after being hit by Texans’ linebacker Tim Dobbins with 2:56 remaining in the second quarter. Because of a challenge that Smith threw in protest of the illegal forward pass, Cutler was allowed extra time to gather himself from the hit. Cutler convinced the Bears’ training staff–whom were called on the field by center Roberto Garza–that he was fine. Cutler remained in the game, not to mention diving head first for a first down on the very next play, and finished the first half. While in the locker room at half time, Cutler was showing symptoms of being concussed and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
The NFL provides an independent trainer at each game whose sole job is to look for plays in where a concussion may have occurred. If that trainer witnesses such a play, he would then signal down to the respective sideline and require that the player in question be evaluated. During his press conference on Monday, Smith defended the Bears handling of Cutler’s concussion.
“Our trainers talked to him then. When I say concussion protocol, that’s a part of it,” Smith said. “It’s not like he showed symptoms, but we had a break in between. Our trainers talked to him, evaluated him. He was fine from there. Players in the huddle didn’t see anything wrong with him at the time. Not just then. We continued to talk him all the way out, even through halftime.” ESPN Chicago
Cutler began showing signs at halftime, and as a result, the Bears acted appropriately and removed the quarterback from the game. The NFL reviewed the Bears handling of Cutler’s concussion and ruled that the Bears handled the situation properly.
The next step for the Bears and Cutler is that the quarterback must wait for the all the symptoms of the concussion to subside. Once the symptoms subside, Cutler will be evaluated by an independent physician. Cutler will be tested on the function of his cognitive skills post concussion, and if the his results mirror the baseline that he set before the season, the quarterback will be cleared to return to practice. Once Cutler goes through a non-contact practice with no issues, he will be cleared for contact in practice. If Cutler makes it through a contact practice without any concussion symptoms surfacing, the quarterback will be cleared for game action. Cutler can not speak with the media until he is cleared.
The precedent for Cutler and the Bears may have been set in 2010 when the quarterback was unable to be cleared for the game against the Carolina Panthers. For that reason, I am less than optimistic that Cutler will be the team’s starting quarterback in San Francisco against the 49ers on Monday Night Football next week.
It is worth noting that 49ers’ quarterback Alex Smith sustained a concussion during their game against the St Louis Rams on Sunday and will be forced to undergo the same process as Cutler.