If I'm reading the NFL's new concussion policy correctly -- and there isn't much ambiguity -- the Chicago Bears have essentially locked themselves into starting quarterback Jay Cutler against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Cutler, who suffered a concussion Sunday night against the New York Giants, was a limited participant in practice Wednesday and shared first-team repetitions with backup Todd Collins, according to offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The league's policy bars players who have suffered concussions from any football-related activities until they've been medically cleared to return. So if the concussion ultimately prevents Cutler from playing Sunday, the Bears would be in violation of the policy for allowing him to practice Wednesday.
Here's how the policy reads:
Once he is removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant.
Cutler skipped his usual Wednesday meeting with reporters, so we don't have a first-hand account of how he is feeling. But the point here is not to scrutinize the Bears' medical approach as much as it is to suggest they are operating as if Cutler has been cleared to play.
I suppose there is always the possibility of a relapse, which would leave Collins as their starter. But assuming everything is on the up-and-up here, Cutler should now be considered the Bears' likely starter this weekend. Stay tuned.