Bears looking at backups points to Cutler missing SF game

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Bears looking at backups points to Cutler missing SF game

Coach Lovie Smith keeps information pertaining to injuries to players and their availability for an upcoming game famously private. Between not wishing to give rivals competitive information and restricting how much personal medical information is made revealed, nuclear launch codes sometimes have a better chance of becoming public.

However, whether he will be able to keep the San Francisco 49ers from knowing who will be his starting quarterback Jay Cutler or Jason Campbell for next Mondays game remains to be seen.

Cutler and defensive end Shea McClellin left Sundays game with concussions. Neither are expected to play against the 49ers.

Perhaps the best indication that Cutler will not play was the Bears immediate search for a veteran backup on Monday, expected to be former Bears backup Josh McCown, according to multiple sources.

Were looking at all our options at the quarterback position, Smith said. Hes one of them. Of course, he played good football for us in the final two games of 2011. Were familiar with him.

The nature of concussions is such that the NFL has taken an increasingly strong stance against quick return from that injury.

That includes practicing as well, which could force Smith and staff to make a decision sooner rather than later about the starter.

Yes, it does, Smith said. You want to know as soon as possible of course to let that guy start getting the reps.

The No. 1 quarterback takes the vast majority of practice reps. If Campbell is going to play, he needs to get the work throughout a week of preparation for a defense even more difficult to score on that Houstons.

And if Cutler is going to play, he needs to be cleared conclusively early so he can get his necessary preparation with the rest of the offense.

Concussion protocol

Smith repeated the statement that the Bears have and will always err on the side of keeping injured players out. Concussions have a specific protocol of tests, comparing the results from those tests with a previously established baseline, and determining that a player is symptom-free.

If he is not, he is held out and the process begins again. Cutler had a concussion in an October 2010 game that caused him to miss the game the next weekend.

Smith said that when Cutler began to show symptoms of concussion at halftime Sunday, the Bears removed him from the game.

Every concussion is a little bit different, Smith said. I just know during that game a guy has symptoms, has a concussion, were not going to play him then. Well go through the protocol and once theyve been cleared to come back for practice and play, thats when hell play. Its really as simple as that. Weve already started the process with that.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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