Jay Cutler spent the second half of the NFC Championship Game on the sideline at Solider Field, wearing a parka and a winter hat. Not a winning vision for anyone with rooting interest in the Bears.
The Bears, as nearly all teams do, announced only that Cutler was “questionable” to return because of a knee injury. There was no obvious moment when Cutler was injured, no gruesome replay of a joint bending the wrong direction.
But before Todd Collins even had time to get pulled in favor of Caleb Hanie, the court of public opinion already had convicted Cutler of having no heart. How could he be on the sideline in the biggest came of his career? His toughness was put into question and ruled inadequate. Bad teammate, let his guys down.
Here’s a Twitter sample of some of the reaction:
Maurice Jones-Drew: “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee … I played the whole season on one …”
Asante Samuel: ‘If he was my teammate I would be looking at him sideways. … I luv my QB @mikevick he has the heart of a lion. I guess others are scared of success.”
Kirk Morrison: “If my knee was hurt or acl/mcl/pcl sprain, I would not be standing up on the sideline.”
Darnell Dockett: “If I’m on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room!”
All of this before we knew any details of Cutler’s injury. Maybe he didn’t help himself by actually standing on the sideline with his teammates. Perhaps the perception would be different if Cutler had gone down writhing in pain or was unable to leave the locker room because of the injury.
I’m no Cutler apologist. Did Cutler play well? Of course not. But it’s amazing how many people turn into doctors when it comes to an injury. I’ve had three torn ACLs that required four surgeries to fix. I can say with 100 percent certainty that no two injuries are the same. I find it difficult to question the toughness of a quarterback who was sacked 52 times this season.
Cutler didn’t speak at the podium after the game, as injured players aren’t required to do so. But he did tell NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora he “hopes” the injury won’t require surgery and had “no comment at all” for those who question his toughness.
But Bears coach Lovie Smith quickly grew tired over a string of injury questions, saying there was “no decision” to be made because Cutler was hurt. Brian Urlacher vehemently defended Cutler when a reporter raised the issue.
“Jay was hurt. I don’t question his toughness,” Urlacher said. “He’s tough as hell. He’s one of the toughest guys on our team. No, we don’t question his toughness.”
Bears fans, maybe you feel like burning your Cutler jerseys. Just be careful not to hurt your knee jumping off the bandwagon, given you bought the jersey in the first place. It simply makes all the sense in the world to find out what we don’t know before rushing to snap judgments. In time, we’ll find out the truth.