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49ers’ Smith returns to practice; Cutler’s status remains uncertain

Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler

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Updated: December 19, 2012 12:17PM



At least one starting quarterback for Monday night is on the fast track for a return.

Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers was cleared to return to practice Wednesday, although he wore a non-contact jersey.

The Bears, meanwhile, didn’t practice and didn’t provide any indication of quarterback Jay Cutler’s status for the game.

“[Cutler] is getting better,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We’re still evaluating him. He’s meeting with people — medical staff, our trainers and all of that — but he’s getting better.

“We do have a little bit more time, and that’s always good.”

The Bears weren’t required to provide an injury report because they play Monday night. But they’ll need to list Cutler’s injury and publicize the extent to which he can or can’t practice Thursday.

Cutler was at Halas Hall on Wednesday.

To practice this week and play against the 49ers, Cutler will have to be cleared by team doctors and an independent neurological consultant. Then, before playing in a game, he must also be asymptomatic while at rest and during physical exertion.

While being closely monitored, he must restart the process if any symptoms arise.

“We’re treating them the same way we always have,” Smith said. “If a guy’s in trouble, you don’t play him.

“I can’t look into the future. Every case is different. Jay’s feeling a whole lot better.”

The player responsible for Cutler’s concussion paid a price Wednesday. Houston Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins was fined $30,000 for the hit.

On Sunday, Dobbins insisted that he did not hit Cutler in the head.

“He ran into me. How about that?” Dobbins said.

On Wednesday, Dobbins told the Houston Chronicle that the fine was too high and he’ll appeal.

“There were a whole lot of zeros,” Dobbins said. “I’m not a dirty player.”

The Bears, however, are moving on.

Smith highlighted how important the game against the 49ers is and expressed confidence in the team’s depth at quarterback.

“We need to get a win,’’ Smith said, ‘‘and this is a big game for us, and we like our backup plan at the quarterback position. We like Jason Campbell. We’ve been saying that all along.”

Added center Roberto Garza, “Just look at his track record. It speaks for itself.”

Smith acknowledged that Campbell only did an OK job in the second half of the 13-6 loss to the Texans. But he added, “If he has to play this week, he’ll do an even better job.”

The transition from longtime starter to backup has been a challenge for Campbell, particularly the limited repetitions during the practice week and being tossed into the game with little warmup.

“If I have to play, during the week I will get those practice reps and get the guys used to [me],’’ Campbell said Sunday. ‘‘And they will get used to me as a quarterback until Jay is ready. That’s something that we have all week to get ready for.

“We don’t have to work that out during the middle of the game.”

As insurance, the Bears signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who was cut just before the regular season started. If Cutler can’t play, then McCown would serve as Campbell’s backup.

“Two years in a row this has happened,” McCown said of stepping in late in the year. “And, again, I hate to come in under these circumstances, but I’m glad to be here.”



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