Bears making changes on O-line with QBs hurting

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Associated Press

Posted on November 22, 2012 at 10:01 AM

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears will not know until at least Thursday and possibly Friday whether quarterback Jay Cutler will play against the Minnesota Vikings this weekend.

They know for certain some things will change within the offense.

Cutler, who missed the last game and a half due to a concussion, will go through a limited practice Thursday then could get the go-ahead for a full practice Friday ahead of Sunday's game.

"Jay has to be cleared to practice on a limited basis, which he has been cleared to do that," coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday. "Before he can play, he has to be cleared by an independent neurologist, and we're not to that point."

Cutler said he feels fine, is symptom-free and hopes to get medical approval to play.

"I've got to see some more doctors, got to go on the field and make sure you can exert yourself, really," he said. "It's a personal thing, just making sure you feel OK."

Cutler was injured during the Houston game as he scrambled to try and throw a pass in the open field, and has often done this when his struggling offensive line has failed to protect him. He said the concussion, his second with the Bears and third in the NFL, will not make him less willing to take risks.

"It's not going to change the way I play football," he said. "It's not going to change my desire to return to the field by any means."

To make sure Cutler or backup Jason Campbell is properly protected in the future, the Bears are considering changes at offensive tackle. They allowed six sacks to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night and have given up 34 on the year, second only to Arizona (44).

"There's never job security when you put up a performance like that across the board," center Roberto Garza said.

Starting left guard Chilo Rachal was placed on the reserve/left team list for personal reasons that were not disclosed. As a result, either Chris Spencer or Edwin Williams could get a start at left guard against veteran Jared Allen and the Vikings.

Spencer started the first two games at left guard this season before Rachal was moved into the spot. Williams started the final seven games at left guard in 2011 after an injury to Chris Williams.

There could be changes coming at tackle, as well, after right tackle Gabe Carimi and left tackle J'Marcus Webb both struggled against the 49ers.

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said veteran tackle Jonathan Scott, acquired in early September after playing for Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Buffalo in a seven-year career, has the ability to start at tackle.

"I have been in meetings for the last three months, so I've been paying attention," Scott said. "I believe I am ready."

Carimi, the 2011 first-round draft pick from Wisconsin, was beaten several times by 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith and has never looked 100 percent after offseason knee surgery.

"He gets all worked up and he doesn't settle down and it compounds it," Tice said. "It's happened more than once. It compounds and it keeps building. So, he's a young player and he has to work through it. He really does."

Webb has started at left tackle the last two seasons after starting at right tackle as a rookie.

"You know, it all boils down to him, when he uses his hands," Tice said. "He's OK. He's not bad. And the few times this game that he used his hands, he blocked his guy. But when he doesn't use his hands, he's just a big, tall guy out there getting edgy and getting knocked around."

With the offense now ranked 30th in the league and the passing attack 31st, Tice is searching for answers. One possibility won't be Tice relinquishing play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates.

"There's no consideration of that, I don't know where you got that from," Smith told reporters.

Tice said the Bears' offense simply has to block better. Without that he said they "could bring Joe Gibbs out of retirement and have him call the plays," and the offense would still struggle.

Notes: DE Shea McClellin was given clearance to go through a full practice following a concussion suffered two weeks ago, which means he will be available to play Sunday unless he has more symptoms. ... WR Alshon Jeffery underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and Smith said the rookie will miss two to four weeks. Jeffery had just come back from a fractured right hand before suffering a knee injury in the second half against San Francisco.

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