LAKE FOREST, Ill.
The Chicago Bears insisted all along that quarterback Jay Cutler would get his job back once he was ready, no matter how well Josh McCown was playing.
On Thursday, they stuck to their word.
Coach Marc Trestman said Cutler will start Sunday at Cleveland after missing four games because of a high left ankle sprain.
McCown goes back to a reserve role after excelling.
“I don’t think that risk was part of this decision,” Trestman said. “This decision was made a long time ago. That was that when Jay was ready to play, that he would play. That’s how we planned to do it, so I don’t look at it like that. I look at it, Jay’s our quarterback, and when he was ready to play, he was going to play, and that’s the same words I used a month ago and there’s no change today.”
Cutler worked with the receivers following Wednesday’s walkthrough. Trestman said there was no swelling or any “residual issues” from that, and he was a full participant in Thursday’s practice.
He also said Cutler is “100 percent or certainly close to it if not.”
The news on linebacker Lance Briggs wasn’t quite as promising. He participated on a limited basis and Trestman wasn’t optimistic about him returning this week, meaning he could miss his seventh straight game because of a broken shoulder.
Cutler’s return comes on the heels of a blowout win over Dallas on Monday night that vaulted the Bears back into the NFC North race after back-to-back losses at St. Louis and Minnesota. They’re tied with Detroit at 7-6, but the Lions beat them twice.
That includes the game at Soldier Field on Nov. 10, when Cutler returned after sitting out the previous week because of a groin injury only to hurt his ankle when a defensive player rolled up it. He stayed in until the Bears’ final drive, even though he was laboring, when McCown led them to a touchdown and the potential tying two-point conversion failed.
Cutler was hoping to return against Dallas. Instead, he’ll face the Browns, a team that’s 4-9 after losing four straight but boasts one of the league’s top defenses. They’re seventh overall and tied for eighth against the pass.
Lurking not too far beneath the surface is that Cutler has an uncertain future with an expiring contract.