Jay Cutler will have surgery on a fractured thumb on his throwing hand, sustained during Sunday's win over the San Diego Chargers, and will be "out for an extended period of time," Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith told reporters Monday.
The team hasn't announced a date for the quarterback's surgery. Smith said the plan is for Cutler to have surgery "as soon as possible," with the expectation he will return before the season finale Jan. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings.
"Is it a season-ending injury? No," Smith said. "From what I've been told is we can expect him back before the end of the regular season."
Cutler suffered the injury during the fourth quarter when he was taken down by Chargers linebacker Donald Butler following an interception. Cutler remained in the game, however, and the Bears didn't announce an injury.
With an 11-point lead and the ball on the San Diego 30, Cutler was trying to hit Johnny Knox, but the receiver slipped. The Chargers' Antoine Cason picked the ball off at the 20 and returned it 64 yards before being pushed out of bounds by Chicago running back Matt Forte.
Cutler helped prevent a touchdown on the return, but he paid a heavy price.
"That's a huge play in the game," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher told reporters Monday. "Probably a 10-point swing right there, with him making that play. I wish he wouldn't have made it, I'll tell you that much. I'd take it back right now, let the guy score, because we still got the lead. It was 31-27 if he scores. It was a great play by him to keep him out of the end zone and the effort he made on the play, but like I said, we'd trade it for a touchdown right now."
Added Urlacher: "It's devastating. ... It's horrible, and I felt worse for him than I did for us. It stinks for us because he's having such a great year. He's our leader. He's the guy we turn to for pretty much everything."
With Cutler out indefinitely, the Bears now turn to Caleb Hanie, their backup quarterback. Hanie came in for an injured Cutler during the 2010 NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, completing 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.
"Caleb's been around here a long time," Smith said. "Our football team feels comfortable with him leading us."
Smith did say the Bears will bring in an additional QB. No word on Brett Favre, and for what it's worth, NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner isn't available.
Warner, the quarterback for Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz's "Greatest Show On Turf" in St. Louis, made it clear with this Twitter post that he's not coming out of retirement: "I am bummed 4 @JayCutler6 ! Been there 2 many times & he was playing great fball! Yes, I know & luv offense but NO I am NOT unretiring!"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.