|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will undergo surgery on his fractured right thumb on Wednesday in Vail, Colo., according to sources familiar with the situation.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday that he believes Cutler could return to the field near the tail end of the regular season.
"The plan is to get him back at the latter part of the regular season," Smith told reporters. "This is what I wanted to know, 'Was it a season-ending injury?' No. From what I've been told right now, we can expect him back at the end of the regular season. For me, that's enough to go on."
Cutler suffered the thumb injury with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the Bears' 31-20 win over San Diego while trying to make a tackle following an interception. Despite the broken thumb, Cutler managed to stay in the game and complete his final two passes for 24 yards in the team's final drive.
Caleb Hanie has been named the Bears' starting quarterback when the club travels to Oakland to face the Raiders on Sunday. However, Smith confirmed the organization is searching to find another veteran quarterback to add to the 53-man roster to provide depth behind Hanie and rookie fifth-round draft choice Nate Enderle.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright and ESPN's John Clayton contributed to this report.