- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler's accelerated return from a torn groin muscle would present the Chicago Bears' offense with certain challenges if the quarterback receives the necessary medical clearance from team doctors to start Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
A medical source with first-hand experience treating NFL players, but who does not have direct access to Cutler’s medical records, does believe it is possible for the quarterback to return to the field exactly three weeks after suffering a torn muscle in the groin region versus the Washington Redskins on Oct. 20, but not without certain limitations.
Per the source, Cutler’s injured groin muscle could compromise the quarterback’s ability to drop back in the pocket with the customary scissor step after taking a snap from center, perhaps forcing the Bears to run the majority of their offense out of the shotgun, which is a formation they use quite a bit normally.
The injury could also affect Cutler’s effectiveness if/when he is flushed out of the pocket and forced to scramble or make plays with his feet. Although Cutler is considered more of a pocket passer, he is deceptively quick when required to run with the football. Cutler ranks second on the Bears with 92 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
The Lions have one of the most feared defensive lines in the NFL, led by tackle Ndamukong Suh, who leads the club with 3.5 sacks. There is a very strong likelihood that Cutler will be forced to move outside of the pocket if he plays on Sunday based on the Lions’ track record of aggressive play from their defensive front.
But the very nature of the quarterback position does leave open the possibility that Cutler is back on the field well before the original four-to-six-week time frame initially laid out by the club, the source explains. While other position groups such as wide receivers, defensive backs or defensive lineman would likely need more time to recover from a tear in the groin region, the odds are greater that a determined stationary quarterback could push up the return date.
Plus, Cutler, with the help of the Bears’ medical staff, says he has aggressively attacked his rehabilitation in the last two and a half weeks, telling ESPN 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy Show” that he is having platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and using an ARP machine to speed up the recovery process.
Also, Cutler’s throwing motion and delivery shouldn’t be affected all that much if he takes the field on Sunday, the source noted, especially considering the strength of Cutler’s arm.
However, there is an increased risk that if Cutler plays on Sunday, he could reinjure the groin and be out indefinitely. That is one of the risks the Bears are expected to weigh this week as they inch closer to making their final determination.
The other variable is that veteran backup Josh McCown is coming off an excellent game versus the Green Bay Packers. He completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Since replacing Cutler in Washington, McCown has gone 36-of-61 for 476 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 100.2 quarterback rating.
The Bears face some interesting questions this week:
Is a healthy and confident McCown a better option to run the offense on Sunday than Cutler if Cutler is in a limited state?
How will Cutler respond if the Bears refuse to clear him for Sunday?
How will the team respond if Cutler starts and struggles with a red-hot McCown standing on the sidelines?
The most relevant question: Who gives the Bears the best shot to win on Sunday, even if Cutler is medically cleared?
The next 24 hours should tell us where this is headed.