The Bears are confident Jay Cutler will return this season from a broken thumb on his right (throwing) hand, so there was a glimmer of hope to go with the big chill that just blew through Chicago.
Even so, this is a major blow for the Bears.
Cutler needs surgery and will be out “for an extended time,’’ coach Lovie Smith said yesterday. He would not say when the operation will take place, just “hopefully fairly quick,’’ and provided few details about the specific nature of the injury.
He did make one thing clear, though.
“Is it a season-ending injury? No,’’ Smith said. “From what I’ve been told right now, we can expect him back at the end of the regular season.’’
The regular-season finale is Jan. 1 at Minnesota.
With Cutler out, the Bears will turn to backup Caleb Hanie against Oakland this weekend and they will also look to bring in a veteran quarterback.
Hanie has thrown just 14 regular-season passes in four years. He made some plays in the NFC championship game against Green Bay last season after Cutler was injured and Todd Collins struggled, helping keep the Bears in it, but Chicago ultimately lost to the Packers.
Cutler was injured trying to help tackle Antoine Cason on an interception return in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers, and Smith was unaware of the extent of the injury until after the game.
Cutler stayed in and finished with 286 yards passing. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another while leading the Bears (7-3) to their fifth straight win, but his injury is a hit for a team that made a big leap into contention in the NFC.
“It’s devastating,’’ linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “It’s horrible, and I felt worse for him than I did for us.
“It stinks for us because he’s having such a great year. He’s our leader. He’s the guy we turn to for pretty much everything.’’
The Bears also lost long snapper Patrick Mannelly to a season-ending torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his knee, but the big news, obviously, was Cutler’s injury.
“We’re going to miss a great player for a period of time,’’ Smith said.
Ryan fined $75K
Rex Ryan’s mouth really cost him this time.
The brash Jets coach will not appeal a $75,000 fine issued by the NFL for using profanity while angrily responding to a fan at halftime of New York’s 37-16 loss to New England last Sunday. Ryan received an official notice from Commissioner Roger Goodell in the morning.
“The commissioner’s got a tough enough job,’’ Ryan said. “I’m an NFL lifer. I know I represent the NFL and I know I represent the Jets, so I’m accountable for my actions.’’
Ryan spoke to Goodell a few days ago to discuss the matter, and to apologize to him.
“Quite honestly, the man’s made a decision, and if his decision is that I should be fined $75,000, then that’s the way it is,’’ Ryan said, when asked if the punishment was excessive. “I just want to get it behind me.’’
A 49-second video shot by a fan at MetLife Stadium shows the Jets walking off the field and when Ryan appears, someone is heard yelling, “Hey, Rex, Belichick is better than you,’’ referring to Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Ryan looks up and tells the fan to “shut up’’ while also using an obscenity.
Jackson seeing red
Raiders coach Hue Jackson talked to league officials yesterday, a day after he said calls against his team in a 27-21 win at Minnesota were unfair, complained that he could not get explanations of calls from referee Jerome Boger’s crew, and said he didn’t “even know what football is right now’’ with the way some personal fouls were called.
After spending most of his first season as Raiders coach refusing to criticize officials publicly, Jackson snapped after the latest game that included four personal fouls, including three on one touchdown drive by Minnesota in the first quarter.
“All I ask is that when people deal with our football team, that it’s done fairly,’’ Jackson said.
Oakland (6-4) finished the game with 12 penalties for 117 yards.
That keeps the Raiders on a record-setting pace. At this rate, Oakland would finish the season with 164 penalties for 1,427 yards - surpassing the totals of 158 for 1,304 yards by Kansas City in 1998.
The Lions and Saints are moving to prime time. And the NFL is switching networks that televise a different game the same day.
The Dec. 4 game between Detroit and New Orleans will be broadcast on “Sunday Night Football’’ on NBC. The Colts-Patriots matchup was originally in that slot, but the NFL previously announced it was shifting that matchup to earlier in the day under the league’s flexible scheduling policy.
Also in Week 13, the Ravens-Browns game moves to 4:05 p.m. on CBS, while the Broncos-Vikings matchup shifts to 1 p.m. on Fox. CBS usually handles all away games for AFC teams, but the league has made an unprecedented move by switching that telecast to Fox.
The switch was done because Fox would have had only two early games that Sunday and CBS would have had seven.
Redskins receiver Jabar Gaffney downplayed his tweet to a Dallas Cowboys fan to “get a life or kill urself.’’ Gaffney directed profane tweets at the fan after the Redskins lost, 27-24, in overtime to the Cowboys Sunday.
When the fan taunted Gaffney over the Redskins’ losing record, Gaffney responded: “3-7 ain’t a record to be proud of I’m just proud I ain’t you get a life or kill urself.’’
Gaffney later tweeted that he didn’t really want the fan to kill himself.
“It’s something that got took out of ‘text,’ ’’ Gaffney said yesterday. “Cowboy fans, that’s how they are. I was just telling the dude: ‘Y’all won. All right, leave me alone. Don’t talk to me.’ And that’s all it was.’’
Packers’ Starks ailing
Running back James Starks has a sprained knee and a sore ankle, leaving his availability in doubt for the Packers’ game at Detroit Thanksgiving Day. Starks hurt his knee late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s victory over Tampa Bay . . . Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a high ankle sprain that will put him in a walking boot, leaving his availability for Sunday’s game at Atlanta questionable. Coach Leslie Frazier said that Peterson has a Grade 1 sprain, the least severe of the three categories . . . Browns running back Peyton Hillis will miss his sixth consecutive game this week because of a hamstring injury. Hillis hasn’t played since getting hurt Oct. 16 at Oakland. Meanwhile, quarterback Colt McCoy took several big hits on his right shoulder but is expected to practice this week as the Browns prepare to play at Cincinnati . . . Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, injured during the 23-17 loss in Atlanta, has no structural damage to his right forearm and elbow. Coach Mike Munchak said Hasselbeck is sore and will be day to day for practice . . . Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson practiced, and coach Gary Kubiak is optimistic he’ll play Sunday. Johnson has missed the past six games because of a right hamstring injury that required surgery.
Bills’ woes mount
After an embarrassing 35-8 loss at Miami, the Bills’ downward spiral has no end in sight, and the injuries continue to mount. Starting cornerback Terrence McGee underwent surgery on his left knee yesterday and is done for the season, and No. 2 receiver Donald Jones also could be lost for the rest of the year after aggravating an already injured ankle. Running back Fred Jackson and top receiver Stevie Johnson are also banged up and will likely miss some practice time this week leading up to Sunday’s game with the Jets . . . Coach Ron Rivera said Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (team-leading seven sacks) will need an MRI on his injured shoulder and linebacker Omar Gaither has suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee injury. They are just the latest in a series of injuries to the Panthers’ defense, which has surrendered 79 points in their last two games and dropped to 27th in the league rankings . . . The Cardinals have lost starting nose tackle Dan Williams for the remainder of the season because of a broken left arm. The second-year pro from Tennessee was injured in Arizona’s 23-7 loss at San Francisco Sunday . . . Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was feeling better a day after being carted off the field with his neck stabilized after the scary collision with Minnesota linebacker E.J. Henderson . . . The Colts will induct wide receiver Marvin Harrison into their “Ring of Honor’’ Sunday. Harrison ranks No. 3 in NFL history with 1,102 receptions and No. 6 with 14,580 yards.