The Bears have ruled linebacker Lance Briggs out of Sunday's game in Cleveland, but they're optimistic that he will return to action next weekend in Philadelphia.
The seven-time Pro Bowler has been sidelined since fracturing his shoulder Oct. 20 in a loss to the Redskins. Briggs, who will miss his seventh straight game Sunday, practiced Friday on a limited basis for the second day in a row.
The Bears defense has struggled mightily without Briggs, especially against the run. After yielding an average of 102 yards on the ground over the first six games this season, that figure has doubled over the past seven contests to an average of 204 yards.
"He gives you margin for error and players that can win one-on-one pretty much do that," said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. "He can do his job and then once he's secured his job, he can help out. It gives you more margin in your defense overall when you have playmakers like that.
"He's a physical presence. He brings a lot of confidence to the group. He's done a great job since he's been out working with the younger players on the practice field and in meetings, just showing those guys what he sees and telling those guys what he knows and help them take it to the game."
QB quandary: Jay Cutler hasn't paid much attention to the debate raging outside Halas Hall about whether the Bears should have reinstalled him as the starting quarterback (as they did) or stuck with red-hot replacement Josh McCown.
"I have been worried about Cleveland," Cutler said. "That has kind of been where my mindset has been since Monday night after I got cleared. I can't get involved in that. There is not a debate in this building, so that is kind of where my concern lies."
The plan all along was to give Cutler his job back after he recovered from a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the last four games.
"Everybody knows our situation," Trestman said. "There was never any doubt that this was the direction we were going to go. We said that from the beginning. Josh did a tremendous job as a backup. Jay's healthy and ready to go and he'll play on Sunday."
Saying thanks: Cutler appreciates the support he received from coaches and teammates while unable to play over the last month.
"It means a lot," he said. "I think all the guys on offense have been behind me the entire time. The coaches have kept me involved. I've been involved in the whole process each and every week. It just feels good to get back out there and help out the guys and hopefully we can get another win."
Special talent: Browns coach Rob Chudzinski isn't shocked that Bears star Devin Hester owns the NFL's all-time record with 18 kick return touchdowns. Chudzinski served as offensive coordinator at the University of Miami in 2003 when Hester arrived as a freshman.
"He stood out, let me put it that way," Chudzinski said. "Every step along the way there were signs that he was going to be great. The fact that he's ultimately maybe the best of all time in doing that is really special. Knowing him personally, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy and a better person. I'm happy for Devin in his career and the things he's been able to do."