Is Cutler the toughest quarterback in the NFL?

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Is Cutler the toughest quarterback in the NFL?

There is something to be said about what your peers say about you. When it comes to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, its pretty clear how highly his toughness is regarded.

He played tough today, especially after coming back from that hit, Lions linebacker Justin Durant said. It seemed like it was a pretty tough hit that probably hurt him. He showed courage and came back in and played.

The hit Durant mentions of course came in the second quarter from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Cutlers toughness was displayed when he returned to the field to start the second half after the rib injury temporarily knocked him out of the game before halftime.

Nobody ever said he wasnt tough, Lions defensive end Cliff Avril said. He has to be a tough guy to be starting in the NFL. He did show some toughness when he did go down and came back. Nobody ever questioned his toughness.

The compliments didnt stop with just the opposing team. Bears head coach Lovie Smith took it a step further.

Its what he is, Smith said. Hes a tough guy. Thats what you should have as your Chicago Bear quarterback and he does it time after time. He was in some pain, but he fought through it.

Maybe thats just it. Cutler wasnt just physically tough in Monday nights win over the Lions, but he is tough to the core, from the moment his feet hit the floor in the morning, to the time his head hits the pillow at night. He isnt warm and fuzzy all of the time, but thats part of his toughness.

Think of the toughest people you know. Most of them are stern and sometimes abrasive. But, thats part of what keeps them strong both mentally and physically. They may not always say the right things or be the most understanding in certain situations, but they are usually the most loyal individuals in your life and often times get the most out of you in the end.

Hes tough, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. Being around him, thats what I see on a daily basis.

Marshall and Cutler were both drafted by Denver in 2006 and have since been reunited in Chicago. So I think its pretty safe to say Marshall understands Cutler pretty well. Just like wide receiver Earl Bennett, who has played with Cutler the last few seasons with the Bears and was his teammate at Vanderbilt.

Hes a competitor, Bennett said. Hes one of those guys that no matter how beat up he is, he wants to get back in there and help us win the game.

When Cutler went down the entire stadium fell silent. When he got up the crowd was relieved, but still cautiously optimistic about his return. Backup quarterback Jason Campbell took over for the final minutes of the first half and then everyone wondered if Cutler would be back in the game, or be out a few weeks. Some even feared the worst, a season-ending injury.

When the Bears players made their way back out onto the field after halftime someone was missing. Cutler was not with his teammates on the sideline and thats when many started assuming bad news was surely to follow. Then in one brief moment his figure emerged from the tunnel and the Soldier Field crowd erupted. A few minutes later he returned to action and helped ensure his team got the win and moved to 5-1 on the season.

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher explains what it was like during the time of unknown.

"Stressful," Urlacher said. "He's tough, man. It looked like he was in pain. We all held our breath a little bit until he came back out there. I'm glad he's okay and finished the game."

When Urlacher says someone is tough, they are tough. Which is why it's not out of the question to say Cutler may be the toughest quarterback in the NFL. He's 10-1 in his last 11 starts and seems committed to the game more than ever before.

He took a beating by opposing pass rushers during the Mike Martz era. He has received criticism for shoving offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb during a Week 2 loss in Green Bay. Since then Webb has been a much-improved player. A few weeks later in Dallas Cutler got grief for walking away from offensive coordinator Mike Tice. The two were seen fist pounding the next week in Jacksonville and now the Bears have the third best record in the NFL and are sitting all alone in first place of the NFC North.

The time for bashing the starting quarterback in Chicago may be coming to an end. The hard-working people of the Windy City now have a signal caller they can relate to. He's not perfect, but nobody is. He's not prolific, but with an elite defense in place he doesn't have to be.

Cutler had his 2010 season ended by a knee injury against the Packers in the NFC Championship. Last season was cut short by a broken thumb in a Week 11 win over the San Diego Chargers. It's pretty simple. Cutler knows the Bears have the talent to win the Super Bowl this season and he's showing they may have the toughness to get them there too.

Brian Matusz will be spot starter in Cubs' series finale vs. Mariners

Brian Matusz will be spot starter in Cubs' series finale vs. Mariners

Joe Maddon is giving his five starting pitchers an extra day's rest.

Brian Matusz will be a spot starter in the Cubs' series finale against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs optioned reliever Justin Grimm to Triple-A as a corresponding move.

"We'll use that day however we need to to the best of our abilities," said Jake Arrieta. "We'll find a way to use that day to get some work done and get better and move forward. At this time of year, every one of us might need to refine something.

"It actally might not be a bad idea. Hopefully Matusz is ready to come out and compete and be effective, and we'll move on."

Prior to Saturday's game, Maddon indicated that the club is looking to give his starters more days off.

"As we’ve talked about all along, attempting to try to give our regular five a rest in a particular moment, so we’re considering doing something right now," Maddon said. "We’re not ready to announce it yet just to be honest, but we are considering."

Matusz signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs last month.

The 29-year-old southpaw has spent the majority of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. In eight MLB seasons, he is 27-41 with a 4.85 ERA and 460 strikeouts.

As Matusz makes his Cubs debut Sunday, having a familiar face in the clubhouse might help ease any nerves.

"Matusz and I played together for quite a while," said Arrieta, who spent time with Matusz in Baltimore. "I've seen him pitch extremely well his rookie year. He can pitch, he's a smart guy. He's got some really good pitches that he knows how to use effectively. I look forward to watching him pitch and catching up with him."

 

Cubs offense mostly quiet as bullpen blows late lead

Cubs offense mostly quiet as bullpen blows late lead

The Cubs offense had a quiet Saturday afternoon just 24 hours after putting 12 runs on the board against the Seattle Mariners in Game 1.

The Cubs only recorded three hits in their 4-1 loss to the Mariners on Saturday at Wrigley Field. 

The story for most of the game was Mariners pitcher Wade Miley, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was broken up by Kris Bryant.

“He was painting that outside edge pretty well," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "Honestly from the first batter when Dexter (Fowler) takes two fastballs for a strike and then swings at a slider, something’s going on for me. That told me the guy was on. He was.”

Bryant added, "He was throwing right where he wanted to I thought. He was just hitting the catcher’s glove. Working quick, that kind of goes unnoticed sometimes, but as hitters, it kind of keeps you out of your rhythm.”

It was the second time this week the Cubs allowed a no-hitter through at least five innings.

White Sox pitcher Anthony Ranaudo took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Wednesday before the Cubs poured it on and finished the game with eight runs.

Lost in the no-hitter was Arrieta, who had one of the best outings of the season. But the Cubs had nothing to show for it, losing their fifth straight game when the NL Cy Young Award winner takes the mound.

Arrieta finished the game allowing two runs on two hits and three walks, striking out four in seven innings.

After a scoreless six innings of play, the Cubs drew first blood in the seventh. Fowler opened with a leadoff walk. Bryant broke up the no-hitter with a single. Following a Ben Zobrist bunt that advanced the runners, Javier Baez hit a grounder to third. Fowler tried to score and was thrown out at the plate. But after a second look, Joe Maddon challenged the call and it was reversed, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

A couple batters later, Miley attempted to pick off Baez — who reached on a fielder’s choice — but Bryant stole home in the process. First baseman Adam Lind quickly relayed the throw over to catcher Mike Zunino, and Bryant appeared to slide under the tag. After being ruled safe, the Mariners won a challenge of their own and the call was overturned.

"That stunk," Bryant said. "I thought I had a good slide in there. Obviously looking back on it, I could have slid head first but that's one way to really get hurt. I thought I had my foot in there, but obviously (after) the replay, they overturned it."

In the eighth, the Mariners responded. Arrieta walked the first two batters and was relieved by Hector Rondon, who retired both batters he faced. Aroldis Chapman entered the game to try to get the final out of the inning. That happened, but not before the Mariners added three runs. A double by Leonys Martin scored two. Martin later stole third and scored on a wild pitch, making it 3-1.

"Didn’t see that one coming," Maddon said of Seattle's three-run eighth. "Just didn’t see that one coming."

The Mariners added another run in the ninth.

Slugger Anthony Rizzo didn't start, getting a day off to rest, but he came in to pinch hit for Chapman in the eighth, striking out. Willson Contreras started at first in Rizzo's place.

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

BOURBONNAIS — Sometimes football is just a business. Sometimes it’s that and a lot more.

For Willie Young, the business side was taken care of late Friday night when the Bears added two years to his contract, projecting him as a Bear through the 2018 season.

The emotional side was still being taken care of on Saturday, when a former seventh-round draft choice was able to step back and realize what effectively a third NFL contract means to someone who was passed over time after time in the draft and never expected to be much.

“I’m slightly speechless right now but excited,” said Young, someone rarely at a loss for words.

“It means a lot,” Young said after a long pause, reflecting on how seventh-round picks rarely even make teams. “All the teams that passed me over ... My big thing is who I am and what the name on my back stands for.”

[MORE: Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension]

Young was able to call his family and give them the news, “We’re going to be in Chicago a little while longer.”

Just as his entry into the league was shaky, his tenure in Chicago was seldom secure before this weekend.

When Young signed with the Bears in the 2014 offseason, leaving the Detroit Lions, he did so assuming that he was coming in as a starting defensive end. That changed when the Bears landed Jared Allen to position opposite Lamarr Houston. That season ended nevertheless with Young leading the Bears in sacks (10) before suffering a torn Achilles late in the season.

Allen was traded away last season, giving Young a job opportunity as he was coming back from Achilles surgery. Trouble was, the defense Young was returning to had changed completely, and Young was now a linebacker, now with coverage responsibilities and playing in situations.

Despite that second major change from what he’d expected, Young still managed 6.5 sacks, second on the Bears. That, combined with his work through the offseason to date, convinced the Bears that he was more of a fit than even he perhaps thought once upon a time.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The result was a two-year contract extension agreed to late Friday night and added to the final year (2016) Young had from his initial Bears contract which locked him up only through the end of this season.

“It feels good to reward somebody that’s worked as hard as he’s worked and overcome the injury last year, and the leader that he is out there mentoring our younger players,” said GM Ryan Pace. “I feel really good about it. It’s good for our locker room, it’s good for our team.”

Where he once struggled to fit in – and was not reluctant to say so – Young now is securely ensconced as one of the starting outside linebackers in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme. When the Bears go to a 4-3 in nickel situations, Young lines up as the defensive end he had been for his career.

“There’s not a big difference [between 3-4 linebacker and 4-3 end],” said coach John Fox. “I think that [‘don’t call me a linebacker!’] was a little tongue-in-cheek. Some guys up to a point have had their hand on the ground, it’s a little bit of an adjustment. But there’s way more carryover They are involved in coverage a little bit more but I think he’s adapted to it quite nicely actually.”