- Associated Press - Monday, October 21, 2013

LAKE FOREST, ILL. (AP) - The Chicago Bears were already losing games. Now they’re going to be without their most important players on both sides of the ball.

Injured quarterback Jay Cutler will miss at least the next four weeks of the season and Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs will be out for around six weeks, staggering blows for a struggling team.

The Bears announced the news Monday, a day after Cutler suffered a muscle tear in his groin during a 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins, forcing the Bears to go with veteran Josh McCown. Briggs left the game with a small fracture in his left shoulder. Neither player will need surgery.

“They’re not done,” coach Marc Trestman said. “They’re going to be back (this season).”

Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman also left the game with a knee injury as Chicago (4-3) lost for the third time in four games.

The Bears are off this week, but with the injuries mounting, their season could be slipping away from them. The defense has been hit particularly hard in recent weeks, and with Cutler out, it’ll be veteran McCown lining up behind center as they try to keep up with Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.

Cutler came up clutching the top of his left leg following a sack by 333-pound nose tackle Chris Baker with about 10 minutes left in the first half. He stayed down for a few minutes and eventually limped off the field.

“They said this is a minimum four weeks and then we’ll evaluate it week to week,” Trestman said. “Based on the history _ I talked to the doctors this morning _ of this injury, four weeks is a reasonable start and that it would be week to week.”

The Bears insisted Cutler will return this season.

“Unless there’s a complication during his rehab, with the injury that he has that I’m certain he’ll be back at some point,” general manager Phil Emery said.

Where Cutler will be next season remains to be seen, given his expiring contract. It’s the second time in three years that he will miss a significant chunk of time, after suffering a season-ending injury in 2011.

Emery said he doesn’t see a pattern. As for how this injury will impact contract negotiations with Cutler after the season, he wouldn’t discuss that.

“There’s no reason to because it’s not the here-and-now,” Emery said.

The here-and-now has the Bears forced to go with McCown, hoping he can at least keep them afloat while Cutler recuperates.

He entered Sunday’s game at Washington in the second quarter, seeing his first game action since the 2011 season. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett that gave his team a 41-38 lead with 3:57 to play. McCown looked understandably rusty in his first few plays, but he did put Chicago in position to win the shootout with the Redskins.

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