BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Don't expect quarterback Jay Cutler to be on the field for more than a handful of plays Friday night when the Chicago Bears open their preseason schedule on the road against the Carolina Panthers.
Bears coach Marc Trestman's plan is to pull all of his starters out of the game sometime in the first quarter and then get an extended look at reserve players and those fighting for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
"Jay will play, but he'll play very, very limited (snaps)," Trestman said. "How limited? I don't know. It could be three plays, it could be one play, it could be eight plays. We'll just see how the flow of the game goes. If we go three and out, we'll decide if he goes back in for another three. He may not.
"The starters, including Jay, if they’re going to play it will be minimally in this first game."
Wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion) and linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) have already been ruled out for the Carolina game, while defensive end Julius Peppers (excused the last two days/hamstring) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott also seem likely to miss the opening exhibition game.
Don't rule out the possibility of the former Jacksonville Jaguars second-round draft choice Eben Britton eventually unseating J'Marcus Webb for the starting right tackle job. Britton, who started 30 games (23 at right tackle, seven at left guard) for the Jaguars from 2009-12, has come on strong after signing a one-year deal with the Bears on April 16.
While everything in the NFL is subject to change, Trestman said he envisions Britton as one of the active offensive linemen on game days in the regular season.
"I think Eben is in the mix of finding where our offensive line will be," Trestman said. "He's in the mix. He's had a very productive camp. He's versatile; he can play just about anywhere we put him, both on the left and right side. And at this point I can say he's definitely involved in being part of this roster -- on a week-to-week basis. The 46-(man active game day roster)."
Less than 24 hours after Trestman and Bears offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer told reporters that Bears' defensive linemen are told not to jump in the air and bat down balls thrown by Cutler, the quarterback opened the 11-on-11 portion of practice with, you guessed it, a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage that linebacker James Anderson intercepted.
The next scheduled practice at Olivet Nazarene is Sunday at 3:15 p.m. The Bears' final summer workout on the ONU campus is Tuesday, Aug. 13. The remainder of training camp will then be held at the newly refurbished Halas Hall.
Receiver Earl Bennett must now follow the NFL's concussion protocol to return to the field. There are four steps, including passing the concussion test, matching up with his baseline test, going through physical activities without symptoms, meeting with the doctors and being cleared by an independent neurologist. He was present on the practice field on Wednesday.