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Clausen in, Cutler out for spark-seeking Bears

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Jay Cutler’s future with the Chicago Bears is not determined beyond this week, coach Marc Trestman claimed Thursday while announcing Jimmy Clausen would make his first start since 2010.

Trestman stressed Thursday that his decision to bench the team’s highly paid quarterback, whose seven-year contract includes a cash value of an NFL-high $22.5 million this season, in favor of Clausen for Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions was merely an attempt to find a way to win the next football game.

“I think we need a lift at quarterback,” Trestman said. “I think we need a spark.”

Despite great speculation that this is the Bears coach’s attempt to show his system can work if implemented properly through Clausen — a sort of last ditch effort to save his own job — Trestman pushed the move into the category of something simple and result-oriented.

A report by Chicago radio station WSCR-AM citing an unidentified source said Bears ownership had decided Monday that Trestman must go, but there has been no official announcement of this.

However, the explanation for Trestman’s move appears deeper than he suggests when it’s considered that in early December he said Cutler would play “as long as he is healthy.”

“I did say that at the time and i’ve changed my mind,” Trestman said. “I definitely said that at the time. I felt like it was ‘as long as Jay was healthy this week,’ but I’ve changed my mind. I think this is in the best interest of the team.”

Cutler had a season-low 55.8 passer rating in Monday night’s 31-15 loss to New Orleans as the Bears fell behind early in a game for the third straight week.

“I mean, it’s very evident we’re not playing as well at the quarterback position,” Trestman said.

When it was suggested to Trestman that he has ulterior motives, particularly a job-saving maneauver, he tried to stamp out this thought.

“I’m not looking to try to do anything but help our football team win a game,” he said.

The move took Cutler by surprise.

“Shocked, I think, at first,” he said. “And then disappointed. I didn’t see it coming. but I think anytime you lose a lot of games and you don’t play as well as you’d hoped, there’s a chance that that could happen.”

Whether the Bears would be willing to take a huge salary cap hit and loss of cash for ownership remains to be seen. On Cutler’s end, the contract hasn’t necessarily weighed on him as he has failed in his second year within this offensive system.

“Whether they pay me or don’t pay me, I don’t like being in this situation,” Cutler said. “I don’t like having to sit up here and answer these questions about me not being able to play on Sunday.

“I’d rather get paid less and be able to play on Sunday and play at a high level, if that was possible. But it’s not right now. The security of the contract is nice, but I would trade that for reversing our record and playing better football.”

Trestman insisted this doesn’t necessariliy mean it’s the end of the line in Chicago for Cutler, even if he will be 32 years old next season and hasn’t lived up to expectations.

“That doesn’t mean that Jay’s growth as a quarterback can’t continue and he can’t get to where we think he could be,” Trestman said. “Because every quarterback is on their own journey and some people go through these times.

“There’s clearly evidence historically that some players are 30 years old, 31 years old and haven’t reached their potential and when they conclude their year they have. And right now Jay is not at a good point. He’s not playing as well as he could play. I said that starts with me. That’s an accountability issue with all of us as a team and he has not done that and we have not done that and that’s why we made the decision for this moment.”

Neither Trestman nor offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer would give examples of quarterbacks who resurrected their careers after flopping at Cutler’s age, although they insist there have been some.

Cutler would like to think the move will benefit him.

“I think it’s going to serve me going forward,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s here. If not, it will somewhere else.

“It’s definitely been different, it’s (a benching) been something I haven’t experienced, like I said earlier. It’s hard to say right now it’s valuable because I don’t really enjoy the situation we’re in right now, but I think later on, whenever you look back on it, it’s going to serve me well.”

Cutler will back up Clausen, who is going against the league’s No. 1 defense in his first start since going 1-9 as a rookie starter for Carolina in 2010.

“That was four years ago, so it’s obviously a little different,” Clausen said. “I’ve gained more knowledge since 2010, the last game I started, just being around different guys, different coaches, just being around the game, seeing it from a different perspective on the sidelines.

“I think that’s going to help me on Sunday.”

If it does, it’s possible Trestman could be the beneficiary — provided Bears management hasn’t already made a final decision on replacing him.

NOTES: K Robbie Gould missed Thursday’s practice with the quad injury that has kept him out of consecutive games.

–WR Alshon Jeffery missed Thursday’s practice but it was non-injury related and he is expected to play Sunday against Detroit.

–CB Tim Jennings missed Thursday’s practice and is day to day with an ankle injury. Al Louis-Jean is his replacement.

–DE Jeremiah Ratliff did not practice Thursday due to knee soreness and is day to day. He had missed consecutive games with the injury, but played against New Orleans Monday.

–DT Will Sutton missed Thursday’s practice due to illness and is day to day.

–S Chris Conte practiced Thursday on a limited basis. His status for Sunday’s game with Detroit is uncertain.

–LB Shea McClellin went through a complete practice Thursday after an ankle injury was a concern.


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