LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - The Chicago Bears keep losing games and quarterbacks.
After quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a broken left arm against the Green Bay Packers in a 26-10 loss Thursday night, Jay Cutler's return as starter appears inevitable.
The question is when?
"When he's cleared medically, we'll have him out there," Bears coach John Fox said. "When exactly that's going to be, I can't answer that. He's getting closer."
The Bears (1-6) could use some good news in what's been a miserable season so far.
Cutler has been at practice without a brace or cast on the thumb in recent weeks, but has taken part in only one team workout since suffering the injury against Philadelphia on Sept. 19. With the Bears off until Oct. 31, Cutler will have more time to recover and possibly start ahead of third-string quarterback Matt Barkley.
It's not the first quarterback the Bears have lost to a broken bone this year. During preseason, the Bears lost potential third-string quarterback Connor Shaw to a broken leg and signed Barkley on Sept. 4.
"The personnel people thought that he was a taller guy that stood in the pocket pretty well, a guy that we thought we could work with, that had some experience," Fox said.
Barkley was 30 for 50 with four interceptions with Philadelphia in 2013-14 after being drafted in the fourth round in 2013. Against Green Bay on Thursday, he was 6-for-15 passing for 81 yards with two interceptions.
Barkley had taken practically no first-team snaps and worked almost entirely with the scout team as he tried to learn a new offense.
"It's just like learning a new language," Barkley said. "My wife's been helping me out. Just spit out plays. It just takes time; it's one of those things that takes time. We've tried to cram as much in as we could."
Barkley said getting used to throwing to receivers he'd never worked with even in practice was the biggest obstacle.
If Cutler isn't ready and Barkley must start against Minnesota, he'll find a longer period of preparation beneficial.
"Thursday is pretty rough to get everything crammed in within a few days of not really being able to practice," Barkley said. "That'll be nice to get back a full week and have guys healthy."
The health of other players is at least as big an issue for the Bears, who are 1-6 for the first time since 2000.
They didn't have starting left guard Josh Sitton due to ankle and shoulder injuries, and Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long left Thursday's game with an arm issue.
Fox had said prior to the loss to Green Bay that his decision on a starting quarterback would be performance-based, and Hoyer had thrown a club-record four straight 300-yard passing games. But Hoyer left early in the second quarter after getting hit by Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews on an incompletion.
The defensive secondary has also been wracked with injuries.
De'Vante Bausby came up from the practice squad Oct. 10 and started against the Packers after injuries at cornerback to Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan and Deoindre' Hall. The other starting cornerback, Tracy Porter, has played through a knee injury.
"We just have to dig in and keep working," said guard Eric Kush, who replaced Sitton against Green Bay. "No one is going to come and save you. You have to pull your boot straps up and keep working."