- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Cutler returned to the practice field Thursday, about two and a half weeks after tearing a groin muscle during an Oct. 20 game against the Washington Redskins. The original diagnosis was for him to miss a minimum of four weeks.
"As soon as I got hurt I felt like I would be back quicker than they thought," Cutler said. "I kind of had that mindset throughout the [rehabilitation process].
"At the bye week, I thought that would give me enough time to make a push for this game. Last week I felt like if things kept progressing that I'd definitely have a chance for this game. Early last week I had a sense that this could be a real [possibility]."
Cutler does not expect to be limited when he takes the field Sunday. The veteran quarterback took every snap at the Bears' abbreviated practice Thursday and reported that he felt 100 percent during the workout.
"We just went out there and did some drills, threw the ball and stepped up into the pocket," Cutler said. "Made sure I was comfortable moving around. If I wasn't back to 100 percent or if they had any doubts, I wouldn't have been practicing today. That was the stipulation. They were going to let Josh [McCown] have another crack at it, and I was going to sit this out [if I didn't show them I was ready]."
With the aid of the Bears' medical staff, including director of rehabilitation Bobby Slater, Cutler aggressively attacked his rehabilitation the past two weeks, spending the club's entire bye week at the facility instead of taking a previously planned family trip to Nashville. Cutler said he underwent platelet-rich plasma injections and used an accelerated recovery performance (ARP) machine to help speed his recovery.
"Jay has spent, since the day he got hurt, really 24/7 doing everything he can on and off the field to get ready," Trestman said.
"Jay is unique regarding he really understands his body. He understands how to take care of himself, and he's a unique athlete. There was an incredible amount of hard work and effort that he had put in to even have a chance. We're excited about it. It says a lot about his commitment to the team. He came in this morning, did a few of the things. The doctors said, 'You're good to go.'"
Cutler's teammates are publicly endorsing the move, even though Cutler is just three weeks removed from his groin tear. Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte said that Cutler practiced without restrictions when he directed the offense during Thursday's 70-minute session inside the Walter Payton Center.
"I saw him at practice today, and he was moving around the pocket well," Forte said. "He ran some sprint-out plays, so he can run. If he is feeling that way, he is the starting quarterback, so I think he should play if he's 100 percent."
Cutler's return to the starting lineup sends McCown back to the bench after the 11-year veteran completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' 27-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. Overall, McCown went 36-of-61 for 476 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in relief of Cutler.
"I'm a competitor, and I love playing," McCown said. "I had a blast Monday night, and I'll be ready to go the next time I play. There is a part of you that is bummed because you don't get to play anymore, but at the same time, the best thing for our team is for Jay Cutler to be our starting quarterback. He's our starting quarterback. That's my focus."
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