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Jay Cutler to have surgery Wednesday; Orton wants to return

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos

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Updated: December 24, 2011 8:20AM

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair his right thumb Wednesday, according to a league source.

Cutler injured his thumb in the fourth quarter of the 31-20 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers while trying to prevent cornerback Antoine Cason from returning an interception for a touchdown. Cutler slowed Cason enough to allow running back Matt Forte to shove him out of bounds at the Bears’ 16-yard line. As he was going down, though, Cutler’s right thumb hit the ground.

It’s expected to be a routine procedure, and the team is hopeful that Cutler can return toward the end of the regular season. The Bears’ last regular-season game is Jan. 1 at Minnesota. More realistically, though, Cutler would be available after that game.

“Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers,” Cutler wrote on his Twitter account. “The support has been great. Going to get my thumb fixed and be back as soon as I possibly can.”

General manager Jerry Angelo told that they were “anticipating a good result.”

“It’s a shame because he was really coming into his own,” Angelo told “The things he was doing were pretty special.”

After the Bears’ 2-2 start, Cutler was ranked 26th in the NFL with a 77.8 passer rating. Since then, he has moved up to 12th with a rating of 85.7.

Meanwhile, the Bears were weighing what to do for depth behind Caleb Hanie and ahead of rookie Nate Enderle, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft.

The Bears were considering Josh McCown and J.T. O’Sullivan, but they had to add a somewhat-surprising player into the mix Tuesday afternoon: former Bears starting quarterback Kyle Orton.

According to the Denver Post, Orton and his agent, David Dunn, initiated talks for his release with the Broncos after they learned that Cutler’s injury could sideline him more than a month.

“Orton let it be known that Chicago would be one place he’d like to play for,” the Post story said.

The Bears and Kansas City Chiefs are among the teams believed to be interested in Orton. But if both put in a claim for him, the Chiefs would get Orton because of an inferior record. In fact, the Bears are 30th out of 32 teams on the waiver priority list because of a 7-3 record.

The relationship between Mike Martz and Hanie seemed turbulent, especially when Martz tabbed Todd Collins as the backup to Cutler. But Collins struggled mightily in a start against the Carolina Panthers and again in the NFC title game before giving way to Hanie, who led the Bears on two touchdown drives.

Orton’s fate — whether he’s claimed or clears waivers — will be known by 3 p.m. Wednesday. The Bears have such a low waiver position that they might consider letting him clear, then sign him to a new contract. Any team that claims Orton would have to pay the prorated remainder of his 2011 base salary, which comes to $2.6 million.

Hanie is scheduled to make $423,500 for the rest of the season.

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