Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was projected to miss a minimum of four weeks after suffering a groin injury in Week 7, plans to return as the team's starter this Sunday against the Detroit Lions, per a team source.
There has been a sense of optimism in the past week that Cutler is healing more quickly than expected, and the team source said he will return to the practice field in preparation for the Lions. Barring a setback, he expects to start this Sunday in the key NFC North matchup at Soldier Field.
"He's definitely trying to play. Nothing definitive yet," a source told ESPN's Ed Werder. "He's been jogging around a little but nothing major, and he's been throwing the ball around some but nothing serious."
A final decision still must be made by the organization, in consultation with the medical staff, coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery.
Trestman said he's approaching it as a four-week injury unless the doctors decide Cutler is healthy enough to play before that.
If Cutler is successful in his comeback, it will mean he missed only one full start. The Bears had a bye for Week 8 before Monday night's game against the Packers.
Cutler tore a groin muscle in the first half against the Redskins and was expected to miss a minimum of four weeks, the team announced.
But Cutler said last Tuesday that his goal was to return to action before the four-week timetable, with teammate Brandon Marshall going as far as to say that Cutler's "worse-case scenario" would be to sit out one game and be back in time for the Bears' home game against the Lions.
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN's Ed Werder and ESPN.com Bears reporter Michael C. Wright contributed to this report.