TELANDER: Cutler isn’t exactly fragile, but he’s becoming increasingly injury-prone
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist November 10, 2013 7:48PM
Updated: January 10, 2014 2:20AM
Nobody seems to know just when quarterback Jay Cutler was hurt in the Bears’ 21-19 loss Sunday to the Lions.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall said he thought it was during the second offensive series. Some people think it happened in the second quarter.
Cutler and coach Marc Trestman? They don’t know nothin’.
And maybe it’s irrelevant. By the way, is anybody sure it was only/even his left ankle?
The ankle got ‘‘rolled up on,’’ Trestman said.
But why did Cutler, who was coming off a torn groin suffered Oct. 20 against the Redskins, kneel down on the Soldier Field grass in obvious pain at one point? You don’t kneel down when you hurt an ankle. You keel over, hobble or lie on your back and cry like a baby. And he wore stylish leather boots, not a walking boot or a cast, to the rostrum after the game.
Marshall said Cutler’s whole leg was messed up, and that sounds more like it. An aggravated groin, a bruised hip — maybe the whole lower left side of this increasingly undependable guy was tweaked.
Maybe the bigger point is, what difference does it make what part of Cutler was injured? He couldn’t finish the game, and that is becoming an increasingly common sight. Indeed, during the last three seasons, injuries have forced Cutler out of six of the last 24 games he has started.
Nor is it like there’s one fragile area. It was a broken thumb against the Chargers in 2011 (he missed the final six games of the season); bruised ribs against the Lions, a concussion against the Texans and a sprained neck against the Vikings in 2012; the groin against the Redskins three weeks ago; and the ankle/whatever against the Lions on Sunday.
Football is a tough game. I think Trestman and Cutler mentioned that after the loss. Indeed, we were in Green Bay when resilient Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the game by Bears defensive end Shea McClellin last Monday. (If it means anything, McClellin missed the game against the Lions after hurting a hamstring in practice Thursday.)
Stars get hurt, and it’s hard to blame injuries on the guys getting whacked. As much as players talk about shooting themselves in the foot, they don’t usually do that.
But for a quarterback, the man at the helm, eluding injuries is a craft as well as luck. Turning, twisting, dodging, throwing the ball away, releasing it fast, recognizing blitzes — all play a part in one’s health.
Nor do you easily plug in a backup when your starter goes down. Even Bears backup Josh McCown, who was 1-for-1 on touchdown drives after taking over for Cutler on Sunday, acknowledged as much.
‘‘He made some unbelievable throws,’’ McCown said of Cutler, adding that Cutler ‘‘on one leg’’ is better than 90 percent of NFL quarterbacks, including him.
McCown’s a classy guy. He knows he’s a backup. Let him believe what he wants.
The Lions knew Cutler was hurt early on, but they thought he threw the ball pretty well.
‘‘We figured he wouldn’t be moving great,’’ Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. ‘‘But he was pretty surgical back there.’’
Here’s hoping Cutler doesn’t need surgery on any of his body parts. And, of course, we must wonder why Trestman left Cutler in the game until the two-minute drill, considering mobility is kind of a big deal all the time, not just at desperation time. For instance, it would have been nice if Cutler had scrambled a couple of key times. But, of course, he couldn’t.
‘‘It just kind of limited us,’’ Cutler said, correctly.
In fact, his toughness forced him to rely on others to appraise his play.
‘‘I just asked [Trestman] at one point, ‘Do I look OK? Am I still getting it done?’ ’’ Cutler said. ‘‘I felt really restricted in the pocket with what I was able to do. Some of my balls didn’t have as much hum as I wanted.’’
He added that he ‘‘didn’t want to get to the point where I was hurting us more than I was helping us.’’
To some of us, that point came after Cutler’s brilliant three-passes-to-Marshall touchdown drive on the Bears’ first possession and before the injury to his left leg. Watching a wounded quarterback lurch about with monsters such as Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in pursuit is like watching a wingless fly chased by toads.
Cutler is hurt — again. The Lions are in first place.
And you wonder what might cause any of that to change.