If there was any quarterback “controversy” swirling about the Bears – and one likely will be after this season – this one is safely resolved with Jay Cutler cleared by team medical staff to return from his injured thumb and begin practicing this week, all of this about the time that Brian Hoyer was undergoing surgery for his broken right arm suffered in the loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Whether Cutler would have been re-installed as the starter had Hoyer remained healthy, and throwing for 300 yards per game, is a moot point now. Indications were that Hoyer would not lose the job if he was playing well.
But now, “obviously Jay’s our starter,” said coach John Fox. “He was injured, not permitted to play medically. And now that he’s healed he’s back to being our starter.
“That’s really the facts and kind of what happened and where we’re at now. So I don’t know that there was a ‘competition’ to speak of. Just like there wasn’t a competition when Matt Barkley went in [at Green Bay]; he was our only quarterback left. So it’s good to have Jay back. We’re excited to have him back and hopefully he can remain healthy.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
Team chemisty is difficult if not impossible to gauge from the outside. And whether teammates prefer Cutler or Hoyer personally is only marginally relevant anyway.
But Cutler was voted an offensive co-captain (along with Alshon Jeffery) and the offense ostensibly is more dangerous with Cutler and his deep-threat capability. Still, the Bears scored just 21 points in the combined seven quarters behind Cutler, while reaching 17-17-23-16 in whole games under Hoyer.
Cutler’s return is expected to have a ripple effect on the rest of the team.“We don’t really play into that much,” said center Cody Whitehair. “[Whoever’s] back there, we’re going to try and do our best to protect them and do our thing on the run.
“But you know, it is nice to have him back. He’s been a leader on the sideline even while he wasn’t playing and it’ll be nice to have him back out there.”
Wisconsin trails Nebraska by two in the loss column in the Big Ten West Division standings and has a huge showdown with the top-10 Huskers on Saturday night in Madison.
But the road to Indy just got a little tougher, the Badgers announcing Monday that leading tackler Jack Cichy will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Cichy had 60 tackles on the campaign as part of a world-class Wisconsin defense that ranks fourth in the country in scoring (14.3 points allowed a game) and ninth in yardage (300.6 yards allowed a game). His seven tackles for loss rank second on the team, and his 1.5 sacks rank third. He also forced a pair of fumbles in his seven games.
The Badgers have been plagued by injuries in the linebacking corps this season. Cichy's season-ending injury is the second that unit has experienced this year, as Chris Orr was knocked out for the year following an injury in the season-opening win over LSU. T.J. Edwards has been working his way back to full strength after suffering a foot injury this summer. And Vince Biegel missed a couple games with injury but returned to the lineup this past weekend, registering one tackle in the win over Iowa.
Coach Chryst on Jack Cichy: "I love the way he plays and puts it out there. You feel bad for him missing these opportunities to play."— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 24, 2016
Thanks to everyone for the support! Can't wait to get rehab underway. I know my brothers are gonna keep this season rolling! #OnWisconsin— Jack Cichy (@jackCICHY) October 24, 2016
The Badgers, ranked 11th in the most recent AP poll, play host to the No. 7 Huskers on Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium.