NFL Wire News

Axe looms as Bears visit Vikings

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears’ road game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday already had a tone of finality for coach Marc Trestman. Now it has the added sideshow of once-deposed Jay Cutler starting at quarterback.

It could be the last glimpse of Cutler making big plays but also turning the ball over. It could be the last glimpse of Trestman and his assistants. It could even be the end of general manager Phil Emery’s three-year run.

No one knows, but there are plenty of rumors about Trestman, the coaching staff and the Bears possibly looking to deal Cutler.

“I think you’ve just got to prepare yourself that anything could happen,” Cutler said. “I mean, that’s kind of what I’m prepared for.

“Everyone could stay. Everyone could get axed.”

Before the axe swings, Cutler will hope to show what a week away while benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen might have done to his approach to the game and his abilities. His own opinion is that one week meant little.

“I don’t know, when you play so many games and then you sit out one, it’s more of a bye week,” he said.

Cutler beat the Vikings 21-13 in Chicago on Nov. 16, but since then, the momentum built for his possible departure.

The Bears would take about a $19.5 million salary-cap hit next year if they cut Cutler, and that could keep them from filling some of the big holes they have on defense. If he isn’t back, it more likely would be through a trade that would leave them with only a $4 million-$5 million cap hit next year. They would have to find a trading partner willing to eat his big salary, and that is easier said than done considering his poor performance.

Trestman was baffled all season why Cutler has great practices, yet when games start, the offense struggles until after the outcome is decided. Then the Bears pile up garbage-time yards and points.

It is not likely Cutler’s return for one game will do much to cement or end his career in Chicago — salary-cap figures, evaluation and Emery’s future all will impact the decision.

“I think right now we’re looking at the game as an independent entity,” Trestman said.

Cutler’s future looks more uncertain than Trestman’s, whose dismissal was viewed as a foregone conclusion in Chicago since back-to-back embarrassing home losses to the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints earlier this month.

He even admitted on a weekly radio spot this week, “When you’re a 5-10 coach, everything is on the table.”

Nothing about the firing of Trestman can be labeled a certainty since reports of its likelihood all cite unnamed sources. However, several reports of player disenchantment with the coaching regime and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer’s public blasting of Cutler made conclusions easy to draw.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has been under fire since the end of last season, and his firing seemed a foregone conclusion even before the Trestman rumors.

The Bears rank 30th in yardage allowed for the second consecutive year, and they have allowed the most points in the NFL.

“We’re all getting earfuls, believe me, and certainly Mel’s getting his share,” Trestman said. “We all are, as we said. When you’re sitting here with the record that we have, everybody’s got something to say about it.

“That’s part of the job we have right now — and we’ve had — is to deal with it and move forward and get our guys ready to play. That’s where our responsibility lies, is the day-to-day process of doing our best as coaches to get our guys ready to play. That’s our job.”

At the very least, the Bears look like a major rebuilding job next year regardless of who is coaching — and that can’t be good for Emery.

Defensive end Jared Allen made a case for a quick reboot working.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I mean look at Dallas, right, everybody in the world wrote those guys off this year, and now they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. That’s what’s cool about football, every year is on its own accord.

“There’s always moving parts in the NFL, and sometimes it takes longer to click for some people, sometimes you stay healthy, other teams are hurt.”

And sometimes the moving parts are the coaching staffs.

SERIES HISTORY: 107th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series 54-50-2. Minnesota won the last two at home.

–An assortment of injuries kept cornerback/special teams stalwart Sherrick McManis off the field at times. He missed six games, but his presence was felt in a muffed punt recovery against Detroit and in overall coverage.

“I think when he got hurt, that was a big blow to us, but he’s really starting to get his legs back under him, as he showed this past week, and he’s been very effective,” special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.

A young group of special teams players lacked a leader when McManis was out.

“As everybody knows, we’ve had a lot of young guys, but he’s one of the guys that has really helped those guys get up to speed on things, and he’s taken on a leadership role, which is really good to see,” DeCamillis said. “He needs to be commended for that because he’s really helped bond those kids together.”

The Bears are 13th in fewest average punt return yards allowed (9.5 per return) despite playing a variety of young players, and they lead the NFL in fewest average yards per kick return.

McManis is a free agent after the season, as he signed a one-year deal last offseason.

With McManis injured, the Bears developed younger talent on special teams. DeCamillis pointed to Senorise Perry, Cornelius Washington and Dede Lattimore as players who improved greatly to become key performers with more playing time.

“They’re getting it,” DeCamillis said.

–While Tucker was on the hot seat virtually all season, he at least maintained a sense of humor.

He said the media scrutiny might be less severe than what he gets in his own family. His wife is from Chicago, and her uncle, who lives on the south side, apparently grills Tucker after poor defensive efforts.

“Her Uncle Dicky, he’ll meet me after the game, like right after the games sometimes, in the family room,” Tucker said. “It’s like my first media session of the week.”

NOTES: Safety Chris Conte did not practice Wednesday due to a back injury that kept him out last week. … Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long said he will play Sunday despite the hip injury that kept him out of last week’s game. … Defensive end Austen Lane was signed after the Bears put Willie Young on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. … Kicker Robbie Gould ruled himself out due a quad injury, although the team didn’t comment. … Defensive end Jared Allen did not practice Wednesday due to a rib injury. … Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff did not practice Wednesday because of knee soreness.


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