LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears had their coach back on Thursday.

Although the quarterback and running back remained an entirely different matter.

A day after missing practice because of a stomach virus, coach John Fox returned to Halas Hall and said quarterback Jay Cutler is not up to playing in a game at this point.

So Cutler sat out of practice Thursday because of a sprained right thumb.

“I think we just didn’t want to aggravate it more,” Fox said. “Again, a thumb on a throwing hand of a quarterback is a delicate situation. So we just figured we wouldn’t go out there and have any stress on it.”

Cutler, who missed Sunday night’s 31-17 loss at Dallas, had practiced Wednesday on a limited basis for the first time since his injury occurred Sept. 19 in a 29-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fox said it wasn’t a case where Cutler’s thumb worsened after Wednesday’s practice.

“No setbacks, just healing,” Fox said.

However, Cutler hadn’t really done much throwing in Wednesday’s practice as the winless Bears (0-3) prepared to host Detroit (1-2) Sunday.

A clearer situation could present itself Friday, but backup Brian Hoyer continues to lead the offense while Cutler watches.

“Right now he’s really not able,” Fox said about Cutler. “He can go out there and take snaps, but to be able to throw the ball into tight windows and the things you’ve got to do in this league to perform at a high level, if we feel good about that tomorrow (Friday) or we feel good about that Saturday, then (we) wouldn’t hesitate to put him in.

“Right now it’s hard for me to say, until those days hit.”

Hoyer continues to operate under the uncertainty of whether he’ll start, but said it’s merely the life of an NFL backup.

“For me I’m every day trying to prepare to play whatever his status is,” Hoyer said. “Until someone tells me different I’m just preparing like I’m going to play and that’s if he was playing I would prepare the same way.”

Hoyer completed 30 of 49 for 317 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Dallas, but was just 8-for-12 for 71 yards at halftime. The Bears managed only four first-half first downs and trailed 24-3.

It’s possible Hoyer’s job would be easier with the other positions on offense more settled, but running back remains an issue.

Starter Jeremy Langford has been out since suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s game and backup Ka’Deem Carey remains out of practice after missing Sunday’s game entirely with a pulled hamstring.

As a result, rookie Jordan Howard has taken first-team snaps and is the likely starter. Howard has 67 rushing yards on 12 attempts this season, but the fifth-round draft pick from Indiana has to display improvement in the passing game as a blocker.

“He’s getting there,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s getting closer.

“In the NFL, it’s a little bit different than college football with all the different fronts and with all the different personnel packages. He’s working really hard to get caught up to speed with that, but he’s doing a nice job as a runner.”

The Bears rank 30th in the league in rushing and last in time of possession, so the running game has to show drastic improvement.

Earlier this week, the Bears signed former Lions running back Joique Bell and hope to have him available after only a few practices for backup duty against his old team.

Picking up the offense in such a short time will be a challenge.

Asked if Bears coaches were picking his brain for information on the Lions, Bell said, “Right now, I think they’re just trying to feed my brain.”

NOTES: Guard Kyle Long (shoulder) went through a full practice after being limited Wednesday. Guard Josh Sitton (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis. … Defensive end Mitch Unrein (knee) went through a full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. … Safety Harold Jones-Quartey, who had suffered a concussion, was able to practice Thursday on a limited basis.


AP NFL website: and