Jay Cutler to have pins removed

Updated: December 26, 2011, 3:38 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith remained evasive Monday about disclosing the potential availability of quarterback Jay Cutler -- who is scheduled Tuesday to have the pins removed from his fractured right thumb -- for the season finale at Minnesota.

Smith said the team didn't know the status of Cutler or running back Matt Forte for the meaningless finale, adding that he wouldn't discourage either from playing against the Vikings if they desired.

"If they're healthy and ready to go, we won't tell them now," Smith said. "But there are some other guys we feel comfortable playing. They're making progress, but if we had other things on the line (such as a postseason berth) we would take the same approach. We would never stop a player that wanted to play who was healthy and really ready to go. But I don't know if that'll be the case."

Smith disclosed that Cutler is "on schedule to get his pins removed," but "can't really go any further than that." According to Smith, Cutler -- out since suffering a fractured thumb of his throwing hand on Nov. 20 -- hasn't experienced any setbacks in his rehabilitation, and is "right on schedule."

With Cutler out of the lineup, the Bears have lost five straight, after going on a five-game tear before the injury.

Forte, meanwhile, told ESPNChicago.com on Dec. 17 he'd consider returning at less than 100 percent if the team made the postseason. So with the season finale at Minnesota being basically meaningless, it's not likely Forte will look to rejoin his teammates.

Forte suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the MCL in his right knee on Dec. 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and prior to that had been unsuccessful in a bid to receive a long-term contract from the organization. Further injury could decrease Forte's value, although the Bears have stated publicly that won't be the case if negotiations continue.

"You've got to make that decision personally," Forte said of returning. "I'm not going to really go out there and play unless I'm 100 percent, and I can run straight ahead, sprint and make cuts. As a running back, you have to make people miss. You can't just take on hits and get pounded on. You'll have more injuries to rehab."

In other injury news, Smith revealed that linebacker Brian Urlacher suffered a bruised knee in the second half of the team's loss to the Green Bay Packers. Urlacher left the game immediately after suffering the injury in a collision with teammate Lance Briggs, but quickly returned.

Urlacher said, "I don't remember" Sunday when asked specifically about what occurred on the play.

Backup running back Marion Barber is also recovering from a calf injury sustained on Dec. 18, but appears unlikely to make the team's list of game-day actives because of the performances Sunday of Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen.

The Bears will miss the postseason for the fourth time in five years after advancing the NFC title game last season, but Smith stressed that although the mindset is different, there's still something to play for.

"We're going to play the guys who give us the best chance to win, period," Smith said. "You want to win and finish out the season the right way. You want to see some of the players that are trying to make an impression. We just want to play, ideally, our best ball this last game and have that lasting impression on our football season. We realize how (the season) has played out. But you want to finish on a high note as much as anything."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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