LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler returned to the practice field on Thursday and participated in a limited capacity, but he won't suit up for Monday night's clash with the Dallas Cowboys, according to coach Marc Trestman, who announced Josh McCown will start.
Cutler suffered a severe high ankle sprain in a loss to Detroit on Nov. 10 and has missed the club's past three games. The quarterback said during "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000 on Monday that he feels "like I'm gonna get back here really soon. I want to play."
Trestman said Cutler "is continuing to progress" but remains week to week in terms of his recovery.
"There's a lot of clarity to Jay's and our communication," Trestman said. "Jay's very clear on where he is medically. We've been very, very clear that he's got to be released by the doctors before he can play. He's come to terms with that. He's a strong-willed, strong-minded guy. He can't control this decision on Monday other than to continue to work at his rehab."
Filling in for Cutler, McCown has produced a 1-2 record, throwing for 1,038 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception. In those starts, McCown generated a passer rating of 103.8, and for the season, he is 3-2 in five starts with an overall passer rating of 103.6, which currently ranks as the second-best in Bears single-season history.
McCown passed for 355 yards and two touchdowns in last week's loss to the Vikings.
"He's taken a lot of snaps and handled himself extremely well," Trestman said.
Chicago (6-6) enters Monday's critical game in second place in the NFC North, one game behind Detroit.
Cutler visited with doctors on Monday and ran on a treadmill but didn't participate in any real physical activity until Thursday, when the team worked out inside the Walter Payton Center.
Similar to his recovery from a torn muscle in his groin back in November, Cutler took part in a vigorous rehabilitation program to return from the latest setback. The program included exercises to increase mobility and strength in Cutler's injured ankle, and he also underwent treatment on an ARP (accelerated recovery performance) machine, which speeds recovery by stimulating the nervous system.
Prior to the injury against Detroit, Cutler had also missed a portion of a loss on Oct. 20 at Washington. He has completed 63 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a passer rating of 88.4 on the season. Cutler also missed half of the club's Oct. 20 loss to Washington due to a groin strain, and all of the team's Nov. 4 win over the Green Bay Packers before returning from the groin injury Nov. 10 and spraining the ankle.
Cutler also missed one game last season due to a concussion and six contests in 2011 because of a broken thumb.
In other injury news, Trestman also ruled out linebacker Lance Briggs, who has missed the past five games because of a fracture in his left shoulder.