LAKE FOREST – You’ll have to forgive Jay Cutler if his timing was off Monday at Halas Hall.
As he stared at his cell phone, Cutler turned a corner in the practice facility and started to hobble toward the double doors that led to the Bears’ locker room. That’s when the veteran quarterback glanced up and spotted a group of reporters exiting the room.
Change of plans.
Cutler wheeled around – that is to say, he wheeled around as fast as someone with a muscle tear in his groin is able to wheel around, which is not fast at all – and took aim toward a video room that is off-limits to media members. He buried his head in the phone in his palm. He limped with purpose, with passion, with the mindset of a man who refused to allow a torn muscle to prevent him from avoiding some of his least favorite people in the world.
If only the Bears could escape their reality as easily as Cutler could escape snot-nosed journalists.
These are dark days for the Bears, and not because the sun is starting to set before 6 p.m. It’s because they will be without their most important player on offense, Cutler, for at least the next four weeks (emphasis: “at least”), and they will be without their most important player on defense, Lance Briggs, for an estimated six weeks.
Meanwhile, the Bears’ injured-reserve list includes four important defenders: Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, Kelvin Hayden and Nate Collins. Oh, and Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman has a nagging knee injury that seems as if it might outlast the Cubs’ next manager.
Yet Bears general manager Phil Emery wore a smile as he stepped behind the lectern for his midseason State of the Training Room Address. Emery is a positive-minded, likeable leader, and he spoke in his typical everyman vernacular as he scrutinized his team’s four wins, three losses and several thousand injuries.
“I’m proud of this team,” Emery said. “We have earned what we are. I said from the beginning, there would be dust on the highway to get where we want to go. Our goal is to be in the playoffs, to be in the championship hunt, to be in a position to win a Super Bowl.
“We’ve definitely got some dust on the car. We’ve got to clean it up.”
To clean a dusty car, one should seek a car wash.
To fix an injury-riddled team with a leaky defense, well, that job is much tougher.
Emery has a few options as the NFL’s Oct. 29 trade deadline approaches.
• Option No. 1: Dangle a first-round pick for a top playmaker on a losing team that might be in sell mode. The Indianapolis Colts used this strategy last month to acquire running back Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns, who surprisingly won their next three games.
• Option No. 2: Instead of sacrificing a high pick in next year’s draft, seek a medium-priced band-aid for a short-term fix. The Bears could use some help at multiple positions, perhaps none more so than defensive line, and they might be able to patch that trouble spot for the cost of a mid-round draft choice who may or may not make the 53-man roster in 2014.
• Option No. 3: Do nothing. Save those draft picks, which if used properly will provide the formula for replenishing an aging team. If anything, Emery might be a seller instead of a buyer, seeking an extra pick in exchange for an underused veteran (hello, Michael Bush!).
Ultimately, Emery said, any trades he made (or refused to make) would come down to value. Thus far, while working the phones, opposing teams have sought what Emery believes to be too much value in order for the Bears to gain a player.
Don’t expect the trade market to heat up too much in the next week, either.
“The league, I think you've seen all the impact ones that you're going to see,” Emery said. “There's a lot of behind-the-scenes activity that goes on with phone calls, and people kind of throwing out bait and seeing how you're going to respond.
“When it all comes down to it, everybody wants a little more than they want to give. That's typical of life, right?”
So are injuries. So are defeats. So are dusty highways.
Hey, what do you know?
It’s not even 6 p.m., and the sun is setting.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @tcmusick.