LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Coach Lovie Smith said the Chicago Bears properly handled quarterback Jay Cutler’s concussion on Sunday night.
Smith said trainers immediately examined Cutler during a replay review after he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Houston’s Tim Dobbins late in the second quarter of a 13-6 loss to the Texans.
He said Cutler showed no symptoms of a concussion immediately after the hit, so the quarterback finished out the half. Symptoms showed up at intermission and Cutler wound up sitting out the second half, putting his status for next Monday’s game at San Francisco in question.
Cutler will need to pass neurological and psychological tests and be cleared by both his team doctors and an independent neurological consultant before he can return. The same goes for defensive end Shea McClellin, who left early in the game with a concussion. But unlike Cutler, he immediately showed symptoms.
Smith said both players were feeling “a lot better” on Monday.
“We do have a history with players, have a history with Jay, (former linebacker) Hunter Hillenmeyer,” Smith said. “Every football team has players that they’ve gone through with concussions. And that’s not just with concussions. We do that with all of our players with any injury that they have. We’ll never put a guy at risk. No game is that important for us. The player’s health always comes first with everything we do.”
The retired Hillenmeyer was released after missing almost all of the 2010 season because of a concussion and is involved in a legal dispute with the Bears over how much money he’s owed.
As for Cutler, the Bears believe the injury occurred on that hit from Dobbins with just under three minutes left in the quarter.
A scrambling Cutler had just unleashed a long pass on third down at midfield when he got drilled, resulting in an unnecessary roughness penalty. Cutler, who was shaken up on the play, also got called for an illegal forward pass because he was beyond the line of scrimmage, and the Bears challenged that call.
While the play was being reviewed, trainers examined Cutler on the sideline.
“It’s not like he showed symptoms but we had a break in between,” Smith said. “Our trainers talked to him, evaluated him, he was fine from there. Players in the huddle didn’t see anything wrong with him, at the time. Not just then, we just continued to talk to him all the way out, even through to halftime.”
Cutler wound up taking seven more snaps, throwing an interception on that drive and then playing the final possession of the half. Smith said the Bears continued to monitor their quarterback, but he didn’t show symptoms until he was in the locker room.
Asked what the symptoms were, Smith said: “I’m not gonna get into any of that. You can understand why. (It’s) a part of our concussion protocol. I’m a coach, too. (The) medical staff went with him. They have a routine that they go through, that they put him through. Then they determine that.”
To that point, Smith said: “If you look at his play, it’s not like he was light on his feet or starry eyed, anything like that. We felt he was in control of everything, just like the rest of our players, at the time.”
Receiver Brandon Marshall said he didn’t notice anything wrong with Cutler as he finished out the half. “He seemed normal to me,” he said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that while the league is reviewing Dobbins’ hit, there are no issues with how the Bears handled the situation.
“The injury was properly handled by the Bears’ medical staff,” he wrote in an e-mail. He said the league reviews “significant injuries” with team medical staffs “especially when they involve concussions.”
In October 2010, Cutler missed a game with a concussion after being sacked nine times in the first half of a loss at the New York Giants. He was inactive the following week at Carolina, and the Bears dropped the next two games with him out before regrouping to go on a run that carried them all the way to the NFC championship game.
On Sunday, backup quarterback Jason Campbell played the second half, throwing for 94 yards, and figures to start if Cutler isn’t ready to play against the 49ers. The Bears might bring in another backup such as veteran Josh McCown, who played in three games for them last season and started the final two.
“We’re looking at all our options at the quarterback position,” Smith said. “As I said, he’s one of them. Of course, he played good football for us. We’re familiar with him.