LAKE FOREST, Ill. | The Bears believe they can get by without Jay Cutler. That theory might be tested this week.
Coach Lovie Smith said Cutler is improving after sitting out the second half of Sunday's loss to Houston because of a concussion. Whether he'll be ready to play against San Francisco on Monday night is another issue, but they Jason Campbell is a solid backup.
As for Cutler?
"We're still evaluating him, he's meeting with people, medical staff, our trainers and all of that, but he's getting better," Smith said Wednesday. "We do have a little bit more time and that's always good."
What wasn't good was that helmet-to-helmet late in the first half that hit Cutler took from Tim Dobbins, who was fined $30,000 by the league on Wednesday. The Bears believe that's when the concussion occurred.
Cutler initially did not show any symptoms and took seven more snaps in the first half. It wasn't until halftime that the symptoms showed up, and the Bears pulled their quarterback at that point.
The concussion wasn't the first for Cutler. He also missed a game after being sacked nine times in the first half of a loss at the New York Giants in October 2010. But Smith said he isn't worried about this becoming a recurring issue with his quarterback.
"I just worry about the one he had the other night," Smith said. "I can't look into the future or anything like that. Every case is different. Jay's feeling a whole lot better. It'll all play out."
The Bears will start practicing this week on Thursday, and if Cutler isn't ready to play against the 49ers, they figure to go with Campbell. They also brought in veteran Josh McCown this week as a backup.
With Campbell in the mix after signing in the offseason, the Bears believe they can at least avoid the meltdown that came after Cutler's season-ending injury a year ago and ultimately cost general manager Jerry Angelo his job.
You know how that went.
The Bears were putting the finishing touches on a win over San Diego to go to 7-3 and were eyeing a playoff run when Cutler broke his right thumb. They went into a free fall with Caleb Hanie at QB and missed the postseason at 8-8.
They don't see that happening if they have to go with Campbell. After all, he has started 70 games in his career and completed more than 60 percent of his passes.
"He's comfortable in the pocket, comfortable calling the plays," center Roberto Garza said. "Look at his track record. That speaks for itself. There's a reason why he's here, and there's a reason why he's in the situation he's in."
A broken collarbone limited him to six games in 2011 with Oakland. The Raiders traded for Carson Palmer, then let Campbell leave after the season.
"He probably should be starting somewhere," Garza said. "He's that type of player. Unfortunately, we're in this situation, but he's gonna step in there."
Campbell threw for 94 yards in the second half last week, completing 11 of 19 passes. One was a neat 45-yarder to Brandon Marshall with Jonathan Joseph draped over his receiver, but the Bears will need more from him — and the rest of the offense whether Cutler plays or not.
Chicago managed just two field goals against the Texans and got little from Matt Forte, who carried 16 times for 39 yards.
"It comes down to all of us playing a lot better than we did this past weekend," Garza said. "We have to get better and we will get better."
But he insisted teammates believe in Campbell. So did right tackle Gabe Carimi.
"I haven't noticed anything that would indicate that he would not be able to command the huddle," Carimi said.
Notes: Smith acknowledged the Bears had some punters in for a look on Wednesday, with Adam Podlesh struggling. Podlesh, 30th in the league at 41.7 yards per punt, was bothered by a hip pointer earlier this season, but Smith insisted his health wasn't a factor in the Bears looking for help. "We had punters in today because normally, just about every week, there's someone we're looking at, always trying to improve our team and see what's out there," Smith said. "Today was the punters' day. Podlesh has played well for us throughout. None of us played as well as we needed to the last game."
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL