Smith says Hanie will be fine

Lovie Smith (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

With more than three seasons experience in the NFL, and two years in coordinator Mike Martz's system, Bears coach Lovie Smith believes quarterback Caleb Hanie is ready to be the starter.

--Despite Caleb Hanie's lack of game experience, Bears coach Lovie Smith says he doesn't feel the need to lead him by the hand every step of the way.

"I talked to Caleb (Wednesday) morning," Smith said. "I (told) him, 'I'm not going to have you in here every morning and talk, and see how you're feeling and all this stuff.' He'll do a good job with what we ask him to do."

Still with his lack of game experience there are questions about how Hanie will react Sunday.

"The biggest issue with him is being decisive and getting the ball out quick," offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. "He's worked hard at that, and that familiarity with what we're doing takes time. Being in it now and watching games and being on the sideline and practicing and going through today's practice, the ball came out very quickly. The things that we're a little concerned about, he's being able to resolve; he's ready. I'm very excited and anxious to see him play. I think it's going to be fun."

--According to fullback Tyler Clutts, there aren't many people who have more to be thankful for than him.

In 2008 and '09, the Fresno State product played for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League. Last season he spent two weeks on the Cleveland Browns practice squad and also played in the UFL (United Football League) and AFL (Arena Football League). He was in camp again this season with the Browns, but he was cut again and then signed to their practice squad. The Bears signed him to their active roster on Sept. 7, and he's played in all 10 games, catching seven passes for 46 yards and playing special teams. Last week he filled in as the long snapper when Patrick Mannelly suffered a season-ending ruptured ACL in his left knee.

But all that takes a back seat to attending the birth of his daughter in California in the early-morning hours Monday.

"It's an amazing year," he said. "Being here is unbelievable, but having a daughter, I think is going to be the most memorable thing for me that I'll ever have."

Because his flight to Fresno was delayed by fog, Clutts arrived just one hour before the birth, after his wife had been in labor for 16 hours with Giada Marie Clutts, 7 pounds, 1 ounce, 19.5 inches.

"My wife is full Italian, and she took the last name 'Clutts,' " the fullback said. "So I was like, 'Yeah, we can do an Italian first name, that's great.' "

--Kyle Orton and his neck beard will not be returning to the Bears.

The team agreed to terms Wednesday afternoon with veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who will back up Caleb Hanie while former starter Jay Cutler recovers from Wednesday morning's surgery on his fractured right thumb. Orton, a former starter with the Bears, was cut by the Broncos on Tuesday. He was claimed off waivers Wednesday by the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bears also put in a claim for Orton, but since the waiver process goes from worst to first, the 4-6 Chiefs claim superceded that of the 7-3 Bears.

McCown has started 31 games and played in 47 during eight NFL seasons with the Cardinals (2002-05), Lions (2006), Raiders (2007) and Panthers (2008-09). "I have a history with Josh," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's an East Texas guy from Jacksonville, about 20 miles from where I'm from back home (Big Sandy). In 2006, when he went to Detroit, we tried to get him to become a Bear then. Last year in training camp, we tried to get him to come on board. So it's only fitting we eventually get him to become a part of our team."

McCown was originally a third-round pick (81st overall) by the Cardinals. The 6-4, 213-pounder out of Sam Houston State has completed 610 of 1,058 passes (57.7 percent) for 6,584 yards, 35 touchdowns, 40 interceptions and a 71.3 passer rating.

PLAYER NOTES

--DT Amobi Okoye has three sacks, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble in four career games vs. the Raiders.

--DE Julius Peppers has five sacks and two forced fumbles in two career games vs. the Raiders.

--RB Matt Forte still leads the NFL with 1,391 yards from scrimmage despite behind held under 85 in each of the past two games.

--WR Earl Bennett has 16 third-down receptions since Week 9 of the 2010 season and all 16 have gone for a first down.

--WR Johnny Knox is averaging 19.9 yards per reception, second in the NFL to the Ravens' Torrey Smith (20.3).

INJURY IMPACT

--QB Jay Cutler (fractured right thumb) had surgery and is out about six weeks, but the Bears hope to have him back before the end of the regular season.

--CB D.J. Moore (sprained ankle) did not practice Wednesday and in unlikely to play Sunday.

--S Brandon Meriweather (concussion) was limited at practice Wednesday and appears doubtful for Sunday.

GAME PLAN: The Bears will do all they can to make QB Caleb Hanie's first NFL start as simple as possible. That means an even greater emphasis on the run, although the Bears have run the ball at least 32 times in each of their last four games. The problem for the Bears is that, in the past two games, even with Jay Cutler at quarterback, they averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. The Bears have recently experimented with occasionally moving Cutler in the pocket and that should work well for Hanie, who has very good mobility and is a threat to run.

Defensively the Bears have been a major disappointment as a pass-rushing team with just four in the last four games. The defense is predicated upon getting a pass rush from the linemen, but that has happened only occasionally, so LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs might help out with blitzes. But they will settle for containing the Raiders' excellent run game, which has flourished even with Michael Bush filling in for injured Darren McFadden.

BY THE NUMBERS: 23 -- Number of takeaways by the Bears' defense, which is tied for No. 2 in the NFL. Nine of the takeaways have come in the previous two games.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bears LT J'Marcus Webb and RT Lance Louis vs. Raiders SLB Kamerion Wimbley, who leads Oakland with six sacks.

Bears leading sacker DRE Julius Peppers, who has six sacks, vs. Raiders LT Jared Veldheer, who handled Vikings' DRE Jared Allen last week.

Bears RB Matt Forte, who leads the NFL with 1,391 yards from scrimmage and is fourth with 926 rushing yards, vs. the Raiders' defense which is 25th in rushing yards and tied for 31st in average gain per rush allowed.


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