Jay Cutler’s desire to play football in pain has been the first word on everyone’s tongue for the past day. On Monday, we heard what kept Cutler out for the majority of the second half of Sunday’s NFC Championship loss to the Green Bay Packers. Cutler suffered a Grade II MCL sprain in his left knee sometime during the first half. He went to the locker room shortly before halftime and played just one series in the third quarter. That’s when, according to head coach Lovie Smith, the decision was made to go with Todd Collins at quarterback. From then on, Cutler was seen walking around, riding a stationary bike, sitting on the bench, but not on the field, drawing the ire of current players, former players, former coaches, Bears fans and about two-thirds of the world’s population.
Cutler is expected to be healthy in four weeks and will probably be able to avoid surgery. FANTASY ANALYSIS: Since finding out the exact nature of Cutler’s injury, a lot of players have taken back their initial criticisms of him. Why?
Yes, Cutler’s MCL injury is not so minor and the ligament is torn to some degree. But many players have played with ailments just as severe — if not more so — on many occasions. And most of them weren’t competing for a trip to the Super Bowl. Every season, after a few weeks of playing in the NFL, a good number of employees work with some kind of injury. It comes with the job. Injuries happen. It’s a supremely physical game. If players want to tell one of their own that he should have shown more guts and played on a wobbly knee in a game with great consequence, they should stick to their guns.
I think Bears fans and many other people would have been at least OK with Cutler’s situation if he simply looked like he gave a damn about what was going on. While he was sitting, standing or riding a stationary bike on the sidelines, never did you see him distraught or visibly depressed that he could no longer continue in the most important Bears game in four years. Tears would have been acceptable. There was never a shot of him with his head in his hands. He just looked bored. He didn’t show an interest in helping out Todd Collins or Caleb Hanie. He didn’t wear headphones to listen to what plays were being called. He just stood there — without a knee wrap or ice pack in sight — and seemed to take his exit with an “oh well” attitude. I don’t know what was going on inside of him, but the exterior was less than satisfying to those who wanted a Bears victory so badly. With so much on the line, people needed to see more passion, more caring; Cutler didn’t give it to them.
And so, Bears fans started burning No. 6 jerseys as soon as the Packers started celebrating.
It’s going to be a long spring and summer in Chicago. For the sake of Bears fans, I hope there is no lockout and the 2011 season starts on time. By September, they’ll desperately need something to help them erase the memory of how their 2010 season ended.