LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The struggling Chicago Bears might have to get by without quarterback Jay Cutler.

Coach John Fox said Cutler has a sprained right thumb that does not appear to require surgery and would not rule him out for this weekend’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

If he is not ready, Brian Hoyer will start.

“It’s hard for me to give timelines,” Fox said on Tuesday. “We’ll evaluate tomorrow. We’ve got practice tomorrow, we’re on a short week already. If Jay’s ready to do it, fine. If not, we’ll go with Brian Hoyer.”

Cutler topped a long list of players injured in Monday’s 29-14 loss to Philadelphia.

The defense was hit hard, with Fox confirming to WBBM-AM 780 on Tuesday night that linebacker Lamarr Houston tore the ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan is scheduled for surgery Wednesday morning on a sprained thumb. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman (sprained ankle) left the field on a cart.

But once again, the Bears find themselves in a familiar spot with their quarterback hurt.

Cutler has not played in all 16 games since 2009, his first season in Chicago, and if he is sidelined, that would be a big blow for the Bears. They are 0-2 in their second season under Fox after finishing last in the NFC North a year ago, and the last thing they need is to have to get by without their quarterback.

It’s not clear when the injury happened. Cutler reportedly suffered ligament damage to his thumb during the season-opening loss at Houston. He was not on the injury report leading up to the Eagles game.

Fox said the thumb “didn’t appear” to affect Cutler in practice last week and he was a full participant.

Cutler said Monday night he couldn’t pinpoint when the injury occurred but acknowledged he was having trouble early in the game.

It worsened when he tried to plant his hand breaking his fall on a strip-sack by Philadelphia’s Destiny Vaeao in the third quarter. Cutler played two more series and exited the game after the Eagles’ Nigel Bradham stepped in front of a badly underthrown pass intended for Alshon Jeffery, who was about 10 yards up the field.

Cutler headed to the locker room. But before he left the field, he got an earful from injured linebacker Pernell McPhee on the sideline.

Should the Bears have pulled him earlier?

“Medical people come to you and say he can’t go, then he can’t go,” Fox said. “I don’t know if he was left in any longer than anyone could’ve guessed. Our training staff comes to you and says he’s got a thumb injury, that’s when we made our move.”

Cutler has missed 15 games since the start of the 2010 season, and he has a history of injuries to his right thumb dating to his childhood.

Cutler said he had surgery on it when he was 11 or 12. He missed the final six games of the 2011 season when he broke the thumb trying to make a tackle following an interception against San Diego. The Bears won that game to improve to 7-3, but went into a tailspin on the way to an 8-8 finish.

Now, Cutler is hurt again. And he has plenty of company.

“I like our roster, I like our choices and we’ll do everything we can to get everybody ready for Dallas,” Fox said.

Notes: S Adrian Amos and CB Bryce Callahan exited Monday’s game with concussions, S Chris Prosinski bruised his right calf and RB Ka’Deem Carey strained his hamstring. … Fox basically brushed off a question about the McPhee-Cutler confrontation, saying he has not seen it. “My understanding is you’re going to have conversations,” he said. “These guys are competitive, they’re going to hold each other accountable. You’re going to have not confrontations, but conversations. That’s always been the case on any football team I’ve ever been around.” … … The Bears released FB Paul Lasike.


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