LAKE FOREST – Martellus Bennett is no dummy, tackling or otherwise.
After Jay Cutler tore a muscle in his groin and was replaced by Josh McCown as the Bears’ starting quarterback, Bennett came up with an idea. The Bears’ tight end would approach McCown, he joked with teammates, and ask the veteran out to dinner.
Think of Bennett’s strategy as Operation Best Friend Forever.
“Cutty’s not my BFF for a couple weeks, so I’m going to make friends, and Josh is my new BFF,” Bennett said with a smile Tuesday at Halas Hall. “I’ll invite him to the house, see if he wants to play some video games, hang out, things like that.
“So I’ve got a new BFF for a couple weeks.”
Meanwhile, the Bears have a new QB for, IDK, at least the next several games.
Except Cutler has a message: BRB.
On Tuesday at Halas Hall, Cutler once again caught passes from McCown during the portion of practice that was open to media members. Cutler wore orange shorts, an orange No. 6 jersey and a blue-and-orange winter hat with a fuzzy ball on top as he stood at the 45-yard line and hauled in every spiral that McCown tossed his direction.
At one point, Cutler jogged lightly toward the sideline to catch a pass from McCown. Granted, he was more Megacautious than he was Megatron, but the sight of Cutler jogging in any form was startling considering the events of the past 10 days.
A week earlier, the Bears had said Cutler would miss at least the next four weeks, and they would evaluate him on a week-to-week basis after that. The prognosis sounded grim. The Bears’ playoff chances seemed to be in jeopardy.
But then Brandon Marshall hinted at hope this week when he offered his best impression of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Marshall is one of Cutler’s closest friends on the team, and he said he expected No. 6 to return in two weeks, maybe sooner.
Marshall’s comments opened the door to speculation, and Cutler did little to close that door Tuesday during his first public comments since his Oct. 20 injury. Cutler gave short answers and offered no guarantees for a sooner-than-expected return, but he made it clear that he would rather play football than play it safe.
“Just doing whatever the doctors and trainers tell me,” Cutler said flatly. “That’s the kind of world we’re living in right now.”
How are you feeling?
“Feel better,” Cutler said. “You know, day by day.”
As for Dr. Marshall’s comments?
“He’s optimistic,” Cutler said. “And so am I. So we’ll see how it goes.”
Could you return ahead of the four-week timeline?
“That’s the goal,” Cutler said.
On the same day that Bulls MVP point guard Derrick Rose snapped a 549-day streak of not playing in a meaningful game, Cutler indicated that he could recover from a ripped groin muscle in less than one month.
You know what?
Cutler might be right.
It’s fair to question Cutler’s decision-making at times or criticize his footwork now and then, but no one who has watched the Bears since 2009 doubts his toughness. Cutler would play through pain and risk greater injury if it were up to him, regardless of the fact that his contract expires at the end of the season.
Like the rest of us, Cutler knows that the next few weeks will be crucial toward determining the Bears’ future. At 4-3, the Bears trail the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in the NFC North and are on the outside looking in when it comes to the conference’s six playoff berths.
No wonder Cutler spoke like a dog waiting to be unleashed when asked whether he might be susceptible to re-aggravating his injury when he returns.
“Whenever they give me the green light, we’re going to go in there rocking, and we can’t look back,” Cutler said. “So, whenever that happens, you’ll see me out there.”
Barking cadences, firing passes, and playing video games with his BFF.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.