Saturday, July 30, 2011

Did Jay Cutler Finally Get Over Himself?

As a lifelong Bears fan living in Denver, I was fully aware of the personal issues surrounding Jay Cutler long before he was traded to Chicago.

However, I sought to overlook that as he was now MY team's quarterback and, much like your child marrying someone you don't necessarily like at first, I defended him against outsiders who simply disliked Cutler's outward persona.

We've all seen him on the sidelines with the same disaffected look on his face, and rarely see him show an emotion outside of anger.  He was just not nearly as cuddly as so many of the other Bears.  So it was no surprise when he left the NFC Championship game this past January with a knee injury that thousands of football fans everywhere attacked his toughness.  Cutler's indifference in interviews following the game and his lack of explanation for why he remained standing on the sideline when perhaps he should have been receiving treatment further inflamed Bears fans against their quarterback.

Add onto that a quickie engagement to a reality tv star in the off-season, and Cutler seemed very much out of touch with the blue-collar values of the town he represented on the field.

That was six months ago, and Cutler recently reappeared at the Bears Training Camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene talking and acting like a new man. He reported three days before the first practice and was the first Bears player to arrive.

Cutler Talks To The Media At Bears Training Camp
Photo: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune

I've always found the knock against Cutler as not being tough as ridiculous.  Anyone who saw him go through the 2007 season where he dropped a total of 33 lbs and continue to play well on the field knows how tough he is.  That weight loss and chronic fatigue that he felt took a while to be diagnosed as Type I (insulin-dependent) Diabetes, and  the subsequent management of that disease affects him in every workout and game.

Cutler can't get a personality transplant to make him as friendly and outgoing as a Drew Brees or Tim Tebow, but he can begin to show a level of leadership that he has lacked.  Showing up at training camp that early helps with his public image.  Being the first player there to give interviews helps his relationship with the media.  What also might help with the fans is his recent (highly unfortunate as no one likes to get dumped) split with that same reality-show fiance.  No one knows why they split other than it was Cutler who made the decision.

However, what will really count is on the field and on the sidelines once the games begin.  Teammates defend Cutler constantly from attacks against his ability to get along with his teammates and his leadership, but something is obviously wrong when an entire city thinks you can't really lead.

In his second year now with Mike Martz's offense, Cutler is saying all the right things at the beginning of Camp.
I'm gonna be with Mike as much as possible and just try to get in his head with this offense," Cutler said. "Last year was a huge learning curve. You're just trying to battle out there and do the best you can. But this year, knowing the offense, just getting into the little details of Mike's head, of what he's thinking, that's kind of my aim right now."

There are definitely a lot of new faces around the facility, and some key ones are now gone.  Roy Williams was just added to the team.  Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu went to the Vikings, and former first-round Tight End Greg Olsen is now a Carolina Panther.  Long-time center Olin Kreutz is currently in contentious negotiations with Bears brass, and there are new offensive linemen everywhere you look.

Into all this strides a quarterback who is showing in recent days that perhaps he finally has matured and is ready to take on the reins of leadership for a team whose history and town demands it.

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