On Jay Cutler returning this season

To clear up the considerable confusion around the Interwebs, let's review the established facts about Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler now that coach Lovie Smith has publicly discussed the situation:

  • Cutler does indeed have a fractured right thumb.

  • Surgery will take place "soon," Smith said. The team initially reported the procedure would occur Tuesday but later recanted that timetable. Smith did say that it won't happen Monday.

  • Smith expressed confidence that Cutler will be back in the lineup before the end of the regular season, which continues for another six weeks. Smith wouldn't discuss the details and assessments that brought him to that conclusion, but he strongly rejected the idea that Cutler's injury is season ending.

  • Backup Caleb Hanie is penciled in for at least a few starts. Rookie Nathan Enderle is Hanie's backup for the moment, but Smith said he hopes to find a veteran backup for additional depth.

NFL teams are notoriously vague on injury information and projections, so I'm not sure what to make of Smith's insistence that Cutler will return during the next six weeks. Without knowing the exact nature of the injury, it's impossible to verify Smith's timetable.

For now, however, nothing has changed. The Bears' short-term fortunes are in the hands of their backup quarterback. They have a relatively favorable schedule and can count on strong contributions from their defense and special teams in the playoff chase. But Cutler's late-season return won't mean much if the train derails under Hanie's direction.