Cutler emerging as unquestioned Bears leader

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Cutler emerging as unquestioned Bears leader

Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011Posted: 12:10 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Roy Williams had not seen many passes like that one in Tennessee.

It was only preseason, or maybe because it was preseason, and Williams cut right, through the Titans defense but drawing a crowd. Williams could see Jay Cutler through the moving figures, back upfield in the pocket.

Suddenly there was the ball. It went through the startled Williams hands, but not before leaving an impression in its wake. Williams had played with Tony Romo in Dallas, so he was no stranger to footballs traveling at high speeds.

This was something different.

Thinking about that throw, I asked him the other day, Whats your most impressive throw, ever? Williams said, slowly shaking his head. He said, Ive had a bunch of those.

Thats a guy you want to play for, a guy you know is going to have your back and Ive got his.

That was not a sentiment every teammate might have expressed over Cutlers career. But as he has said on so many occasions over the past two years, it is the only one that matters to Cutler.

Therein lies the emergence of a leader.

Dealing with changes

Cutlers public demeanor has appeared more affable and relaxed since the early days of training camp. He has seemed more comfortable with questions and dispensing humor without the air of distance he projected in the past.

That in itself is a perceivable change for someone who has been through many in a short time.

Since arriving via trade from Denver in 2009, Cutler has been through two coordinators, two centers, a nine-sack first half and concussion (at New York last season) and broken-off engagement (his call) with reality star Kristin Cavallari. He has dealt with the onset of diabetes in 2007 that requires daily insulin injections and also saw the trade of a friend and key receiver (tight end Greg Olsen, to Carolina and new contract).

I love Greg, Cutler said. And what we brought to us. But thats where it is. Hes got a great deal of money, to go play for a real good team. Hes a great guy, and a terrific football player.

He has gone through a physical makeover, from 233 pounds a year ago to a noticeably thinner 220 now. Part of the reason is a touch of maturity and an indication that he can read a calendar as well as a defense.

My diet was different, just standard stuff, Cutler said. Im getting a little older, so I got to get in a little better shape.

I have not been this lean. I can tell the difference in my footwork and just my ability to get up in the pocket. You know, I don't really get as tired as much throughout camp because I'm not carrying around all that weight. Whether it's good or bad, we'll wait to see.

The attack

Next to all of that, a little verbal abuse from players around the league was petty cash.

Cutler was the target of derision from fellow players after he left the NFC Championship in January after one series in the third quarter. The reason: a knee injury that critics doubted. Never mind that it was later diagnosed as a Grade II torn left medial collateral ligament, or that Cutler took an injection at halftime, came out in the second half and tried to play before being shut down after three unsuccessful plays.

Center Olin Kreutz, the Bears enforcer and acknowledged team tough guy, said after the game, His knee was shaking just standing there in the huddle. Dont try telling me he wasnt hurt.

Indeed, a handful of teammates privately grumbled about the Cutler injury, possibly a reflection of the fact that Cutler was in the throes of a dismal performance when he was injured. But the avalanche of criticism from outsiders appeared to bring the team together around their embattled quarterback.

When a questioner at the NFL scouting combine last February raised a question about Cutlers toughness, coach Lovie Smiths terse, testy response abruptly ended that line of inquiry.
Expectations not his friend

The expectations of Cutler have been huge since the start of his NFL career. They became substantially higher in a Bears town than even in Denver, where he had been drafted with the hope that he would return the Broncos to the glories of the John Elway days. That didnt happen.

The Bears took matters to a different level in 2009 when they invested two No. 1 draft choices in a trade for what they saw as their franchise quarterback. Cutler had reached a Pro Bowl, was in the prime of his career and was intended to sweep away years of frustrating quarterback searches.

Other Bears quarterbacks in the past have been fighting for jobs, said former Bears wide receiver Rashied Davis, now with the Detroit Lions. They've been competing and haven't had as much control as maybe Jay does as a franchise quarterback.

He came in as the Pro Bowl quarterback, the franchise. He was 'Jay Cutler, Pro Bowl quarterback' before he came here and had already proved his place in the league. It's different.

The Broncos had spent a No. 1 pick for Cutler. The Bears had parted with two, plus Kyle Orton and a third-round pick. Then, less than two months into his first Chicago season, they gave him a contract extension worth 30 million. For a Bears town, that makes him more than just another football player.

Jay is the guy, Davis said, that the city of Chicago is leaning on."

Lean on me?

More important, he is also becoming the guy more than just the huddle is leaning on.

Cutler was again voted a co-captain on offense. And he has comported himself like one.

When Johnny Knox had his starting job given to Williams during training camp, Cutler sought Knox out to talk and gauge the feelings of the young receiver.

During the preseason and training camp, backup quarterback Caleb Hanie struggled with interceptions to the point of suffering a brief demotion behind little-used rookie Nathan Enderle. It was Cutler, no stranger to interception problems himself, again talking to Hanie, wanting to keep a slump in play from becoming something more.

When a mistake is made in a receivers route in practice, Cutler will look first to receivers coach Darryl Drake. From the eye contact, its decided whether Drake or Cutler will say what needs to be said to the offending wideout.

Cutler can fix a player with The Look but rarely will there be hectoring or a rant. It is a style that is consistent with the demeanors of fellow captains Roberto Garza, Patrick Mannelly, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher, the other leaders of the team.

Weve never had a rah-rah guy since Ive been here, Urlacher said. I hate those guys, always yapping, running their mouths.

He has a new center in Garza, a good friend of Kreutzs but who projects a far different, calmer persona. Garza is the other captain on offense and projects a different style of leadership himself.

Cutler is not the type to demand attention if he cannot command it.

Leadership is kind of a funny thing, said offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Everyone has a different version of what it is. I think confidence, and how you approach your craft, says everything about it, and your ability to exude that in the huddle and how youre playing. Thats where he is right now.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Alabama OLB Tim Williams

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Alabama OLB Tim Williams

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama

6'3" | 244 lbs.

2016 stats:

31 tackles, 16 TFL, 9 sacks, 2 FF

Projection:

Second round

Scouting Report:

"Alabama has the type of talent and scheme on defense that can make life much easier for everyone along the front seven, but Williams has explosiveness and pass-rush talent to create his own havoc as a pass rusher regardless of what is around him. Scouts say he is lighter than his listed weight and needs to prove he can play with increased toughness in order to reach his potential. Williams' career might be as a pass-rush specialist, but he's talented enough at that endeavor to become a dangerous rush linebacker in the NFL." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles

CSN to look back on the history of the Bears Draft on the next installment of Bears Classics

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CSN to look back on the history of the Bears Draft on the next installment of Bears Classics

‘Bears Classics’ presented by Xfinity to debut Wednesday, April 26 at 11:00 PM CT -- Exclusively on CSN

Narrated by Chicago Bears/Pro Football Hall of Fame legend DICK BUTKUS

Chicago, IL (April 24, 2017) – CSN Chicago and the Chicago Bears will debut a brand new installment of its partnered Bears Classics presented by Xfinity Emmy award-winning documentary series when the network will take a look back at the 81-year of the pro football draft and the Bears picks that turned out to be franchise-changers for the years that followed.     

Debuting Wednesday, April 26 at 11:00 PM CT exclusively on CSN, Bears Classics will chronicle the most notable Bears draft picks in the team’s history.  It all started back in 1936, in Philadelphia.  That year, a group of executives from a young and prospering professional sports alliance gathered for a meeting.  Their mission was to conduct a fair and thoughtful process of choosing the best and brightest college players in the land to join the pro teams that represented the National Football League.

Now, 81 years later, The NFL Draft will return to where it all began in the “City of Brotherly Love.”  For 32 teams and for hundreds of young men, it's a life-changing time that can make or break careers. And for a nation of avid fans, the Draft has become a phenomenon of spring with all the drama of a Sunday Kickoff in the fall.

This hour-long installment of Bears Classics, subtitled The Chosen Ones, takes a look back at the top picks of the NFL's first franchise, highlighting the legendary players and executives who shaped the success of Chicago football.  Among the notable drafts highlighted include 1965, when future Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers were both chosen by the Bears in the 1st round, along with the 1983 Draft, which proved to be a day when the team acquired several impact players of their Super Bowl championship team just two years later. 

This edition of CSN’s Emmy-winning Bears Classics documentary series will once again be narrated by Chicago Bears legend/Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.  Butkus played for the Bears from 1965-1973 and is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.  CSN’s Sarah Lauch is the Executive Producer of Bears Classics, Willie Parker is the Producer, and Kevin Cross is the network’s Senior Director of News & Original Content.

In addition to the documentary narration by Butkus, among the numerous players/media/execs interviewed in this edition of Bears Classics include exclusive interviews with the following individuals:

NEAL ANDERSON

Bears Running Back (1986 Draft, 1st round pick)

RICHARD DENT

Bears Defensive End (1983 Draft, 8th round pick)

MIKE DITKA

Bears Tight End (1961 Draft, 1st round pick)

GARY FENCIK

Bears Safety (1976 Draft, 10th round pick by Miami)

MATT FORTE

Bears Running Back (2008 Draft, 2nd round pick)

REX GROSSMAN

Bears Quarterback (2003 Draft, 1st round pick)

DAN HAMPTON

Bears Defensive End/Tackle (1979 Draft, 1st round pick)

TOMMIE HARRIS

Bears Defensive Tackle (2004 Draft, 1st round pick)

DEVIN HESTER

Bears Punt Returner/Wide Receiver (2006 Draft, 2nd round pick)

JIM MCMAHON

Bears Quarterback (1982 Draft, 1st round pick)

ED O’BRADOVICH

Bears Defensive End (1962 Draft, 7th round pick)

GALE SAYERS

Bears Running Back (1965 Draft, 1st round pick)

MIKE SINGLETARY

Bears Linebacker (1981 Draft, 2nd round pick)

BRIAN URLACHER

Bears Linebacker (2000 Draft, 1st round pick)

JERRY VAINISI

Bears General Manager (1983-86)

OTIS WILSON

Bears Linebacker (1980 Draft, 1st round pick)

Please note the following quotes from CSN’s premiere airing of Bears Classics: The Chosen Ones, debuting Wednesday, April 26 at 11:00 PM CT:

MIKE SINGLETARY (on not being drafted by any team in the first round): “I said ‘Lord, if you want me to play this game, let me get drafted by the Bears,’…and five seconds after I said that, my girlfriend came to the door and said ‘Mike, Mike, Mike, the Bears just drafted you’…it was like ‘Wow!  That was fast!"

MIKE DITKA (on making every play count): “You took the moment and you cherished it, and you played as hard as you could for as long as you could.  And that's the way I looked at football… I never took it for ‘oh boy, this is going to be here for a long time’ because you never really know.” 

JIM MCMAHON (on leadership): “That's the nature of the position, you have to assume a leadership role.  If they're not going to listen to you, you're not going to be very successful.  But I was lucky enough to play with those guys…they listened to me. They figured I knew what I was doing."

BRIAN URLACHER (on how to play the middle linebacker position): “Just a guy who can cover…a guy who can play the run, play the pass, a guy who likes contact.  You’ve got to understand the defense, you’ve got to know where everyone’s supposed to fit, also I guess a decently smart guy, because he has to know where everybody else fits in."

RICHARD DENT (on playing on the defensive line with William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who was the Bears first round pick in the ’85 Draft): "He made my job easier, and I tried to make his job easy.  Meaning that ‘Look William, I’m not going to let anybody hook me, so you don’t have to run from that a-hole to the b-hole or c-hole…you can just sit here and anchor.  Because I’m not letting nothing around me…and you’re not letting nothing inside of me."

CSN will also re-air this episode of Bears Classics on Thursday, April 27 at 11:00 PM and again on Sunday, April 30 at 7:00 PM.  In addition, fans can also get interactive prior and during every airing of Bears Classics with their thoughts, memories and comments by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #BearsClassics.  Plus, CSNChicago.com will provide additional, online exclusive interviews and commentary write-ups from CSN’s team of Bears experts. 

2017 CSN BEARS/NFL DRAFT COVERAGE PROGRAMMING NOTES:  In regards to coverage of this year’s NFL Draft, CSN will provide viewers with three upcoming special editions of In the Loop Prime presented by State Farm this week (featuring hosts Chris Boden, former Bears standpoint Alex Brown, and veteran Bears/NFL expert Hub Arkush). 

  • On Wednesday (Apr. 26) at 10:30 PM, fans can look forward to In the Loop Prime: Bears Draft Preview for a detailed overview of the entire draft field and thoughts on who the Bears will likely take with their first round (3rd overall) pick. 
  • On Draft Night (Thu, Apr. 27) at 10:30 PM, CSN will carry In the Loop Prime: Bears Draft Recap featuring live reports from Halas Hall, along with live reaction from Philadelphia from the Bears top pick and a number of additional key picks throughout the league. 
  • Then, on Sunday (Apr. 30) at 10:30 PM, CSN will carry In the Loop Prime: Bears Draft Review, which will assess the entire draft from both a Bears and overall league perspective, along with featured interview with Bears management with their reflections on the draft. 

In addition, CSNChicago.com will provide 24/7 Draft coverage throughout the week with numerous stories and featured interviewed from “Insider” John ‘Moon’ Mullin and its team of NFL experts.  For a deeper dive into the roster of this year’s top draft choices, fans are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s “Road to the Draft” section: CSNChicago.com/2017-nfl-draft.