Cutler had three screws and two pins surgically inserted into his right thumb last week in Vail, Colo., for an injury that he sustained during a Nov. 20 game against the San Diego Chargers. The pins could be removed after three weeks, after which Cutler can begin thinking about a return.
But doctors told Cutler it could take as many as 10 weeks for the pins to be taken out, hampering his chances of a return to action.
"We'll have to take it week by week, take some X-rays and CT scans the next couple weeks and see if the bone's healing like it should be," Cutler said. "I don't want to put a real number on it because I just don't know."
Bears coach Lovie Smith also acknowledged a possibility that Cutler won't return, but just as he did the day after the San Diego game, he said he expects his quarterback to play again this season.
"I'm going to stand by my comments that I made," Smith said. "Until someone tells me he's not, we're going along like he will be able to come back. And nothing was said otherwise."
Cutler has started rehabilitation, but he has yet to throw a ball. Though he expressed frustration with the injury and his circumstances, Cutler said he didn't want to risk further damage by coming back too soon.
"I have to be smart about it," he said. "Obviously, I'd want to play next week if they'd allow me. I don't think that's going to be in the cards. It could be I'm done for the season. I just have to be smart about it and realize that there is a long-term picture here. At the same point, I want to be out there and my teammates want me to be out there."
"I was (ticked) at Johnny about the pick, so coming off the field, I didn't really notice," said Cutler, who believed Butler grabbed his facemask. "I was more worried about talking to him in a calm manner. After I settled down and went back on the field, I knew there was something definitely wrong and it was kind of serious. I didn't really imagine I'd have to have surgery."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.