Despite top ranking, Irish still embrace underdog status

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Despite top ranking, Irish still embrace underdog status

While a favorite mantra of Brian Kelly has been to tune out the noise, Notre Dame players have relished their role as underdogs during the 2012 season. After beating Oklahoma, multiple players mentioned getting added motivation from the "haters" (one player specifically mentioned ESPN's Mark May by name) who picked the Irish to lose by double digits in Norman.

Even at No. 1, though, there are plenty who don't think Notre Dame will beat USC -- and even if they do, the Irish would be double-digit dogs to Alabama, if the Tide wind up winning the SEC to advance to the BCS Championship.

"There's still haters out there that say 'they don't deserve to be No. 1, they aren't that good, they've had so many close games, blah, blah, blah,'" senior wide receiver John Goodman said. "A win's a win. Right now we're 11-0 with a possible 12-0 season, and that's all that matters."

One person who doesn't think Notre Dame will win on Saturday is USC's quarterback, Max Wittek, who rankled some with comments on an ESPN Radio affiliate in Los Angeles guaranteeing his team would beat the Irish. But Notre Dame players weren't bothered by the comment, at least publicly.

"He said what he said, but at the end of the day he's not going to go out and say that they're going to lose," center Braxston Cave. "Any guy who's a competitor is going to try to motivate his team and do whatever he can to get his team ready to go, and he was given his opportunity to get a start and he's excited for that. He can say whatever he wants to say. We're going to come out and play our game Saturday night."

Cave's point is pertinent, since any player is going to say they're confident about winning, no matter who the upcoming opponent is. Wittek -- a redshirt freshman -- just wasn't politically correct in his comments, although his sentiment is hardly unique.

"We still have two practices left and a lot of traveling to do before we let that set in, but we're going to stay focused, we're going to stay poised, we're going to stay composed," Goodman said. "We need to be able to get our game plan in and get whatever we need to do in place before we get worked up about a comment."

But Notre Dame players may take a little added motivation from Wittek's comments, even if they won't admit it before the game. If Wittek didn't make those remarks, though, the location of the game may have been enough to cultivate that us-against-the-world mentality.

"Any time you go on the road, you're going to be considered the underdog, especially when you're playing your rival, and when you're the No. 1 team in the country everyone's out to get you," Cave said. "We know we're going to have to go out there and play our best game."

Teammates see Mike Glennon taking command of Bears offense

Teammates see Mike Glennon taking command of Bears offense

The Bears are expected to add a quarterback this week, possibly as soon as the third overall pick. But the starting quarterback the team already has in place is beginning to take control of the Bears' offense. 

With the Bears' nine-week offseason program getting underway last week, Mike Glennon has had his first opportunity to work with coaches and teammates here at Halas Hall, largely in conditioning drills. And the early evaluations of the 27-year-old have been positive. 

"(What) I've seen from Mike is just him taking command," receiver Josh Bellamy, this year's veteran recipient of the Piccolo Award, said. "He's taking command and he's willing to take all responsibility of what's going on, and that's what you want in a leader. And I'm willing to follow. And I know everybody else in the locker room is too."

Jordan Howard, the Bears' rookie recipient of the 2016 Piccolo Award, echoed Bellamy's praise of Glennon.

"He's a hard worker," Howard said. "He's been trying to motivate guys to push through things."

Having three different starting quarterbacks (Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley) last year was part of why the Bears sunk to a 3-13 record. Even if the Bears pick their quarterback of the future in two days, having consistent leadership from Glennon could be a positive for this group in 2017. 

"There's not a whole lot of teams that go through that (having three starting QBs) that have success," coach John Fox said last month. "That's over a 16-game regular season schedule. In Mike's case, he's been steady, he's been consistent, he just hasn't had a lot of opportunity. But everybody that I've known that's been around him both in college football and pro football people that I respect and know pretty well feel really good about him moving forward."

And that leadership would come from a guy who last started in 2014 and only attempted 11 passes in the last two seasons. But the Bears lauded Glennon's leadership abilities in signing him last month, and so far, the front office has been proven right in their assessment. 

"He's first out," Bellamy said. "He wants everybody on time, he's demanding everything, what a quarterback should do, he's showing leadership with the whole team. And he interacts with the players, with his guys. He'll call us, hey, you guys want to go to the game or just stuff, just building camaraderie and building a brotherhood. And that's all it's about."

Report: Jay Cutler's agent says QB has no plans to retire

Report: Jay Cutler's agent says QB has no plans to retire

Jay Cutler has no plans to retire, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Quoting Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, the former Bears quarterback "wants to play football. He has never mentioned retirement to me. Jay Cutler, as far as I know, is ready to play and wants to play, and his skill set is as good as any quarterback in the league."

The Bears parted ways with Cutler this offseason after eight seasons. They were reportedly shopping him as part of a trade but nothing surfaced, leading them to cut the 33-year-old.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said in March that the Jets had interest in Cutler, and the quarterback has been linked to the Texans as well.

Quarterbacks needs around the league will gain more clarity following next week's draft, but Cutler may have to wait until a potential training camp injury to find a spot in the league in 2017.