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Bears QB Jay Cutler can bounce back from injuries, but he’s not at his best right away

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is thrown down by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) second quarter Monday

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is thrown down by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) in the second quarter on Monday, October 22, 2012 in at Soldier Field. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 26, 2012 7:21AM



Former Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams is as affable as Ndamukong Suh is brutal. But Adams and Suh have one thing in common — they’ve knocked Jay Cutler out of a game.

When Adams was with the 49ers and Cutler was a rookie with the Broncos in 2006, Adams sacked Cutler in the second quarter of the regular-season finale, sending a woozy Cutler to the bench.

‘‘They probably wouldn’t have allowed him to come back into the game [now] with all the concussions,’’ Adams said.

But with a playoff berth on the line, Cutler was determined to get back in the game and did so in the third quarter. His second pass went to Brandon Marshall for 20 yards but was nullified by a penalty. His third pass was intercepted by Walt Harris and returned 28 yards for a touchdown. But with 1:30 to play, he threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Tony Scheffler to tie the game. Alas, Cutler’s toughness wasn’t enough. The 49ers won 26-23 in overtime.

‘‘He almost won that game when he went back in,’’ Adams said. ‘‘I don’t know why people question his toughness.’’

It’s a shame there was ever any doubt. If it weren’t for his cherished golden arm, Cutler would be known as a ‘‘gamer’’ who thrives on competitiveness and toughness.

He was sacked more than 80 times at Vanderbilt and still finished his college career as the SEC offensive player of the year. At the NFL scouting combine, Cutler was the only quarterback to lift, and he outdid some linemen who were eventually drafted with 23 reps of 225 pounds. At his pro day in Nashville, he chose to work out in inclement conditions — windy and temperatures in the mid-40s — instead of indoors. He reportedly missed one practice in four years at Vandy.

So, of course, Cutler will start at quarterback Sunday against the Panthers at Soldier Field. And more than likely he’ll finish.

It’s what happens in between that bears watching.

For all his admirable heart and desire, Cutler is sometimes a little too much like the White Sox’ Jake Peavy in times of trouble. When he’s dinged a bit, his competitiveness sometimes writes checks his arm can’t cash.

It doesn’t mean he can’t win, especially against the 1-5 Panthers. But if Cutler is still feeling the effects of Suh’s sack, asking him to do too much might be asking for trouble. His history suggests he’s unlikely to snap right back to midseason form — especially considering he was completing a career-low 57.6 percent of his passes even before the injury.

‘‘I feel good,’’ Cutler said Wednesday at Halas Hall. ‘‘[I’m] sore. I’ll be ready to go by Sunday.’’

Cutler said he doesn’t plan to wear any more protective gear than normal and doesn’t expect to be inhibited in any way against the Panthers.

‘‘I’m not concerned at all [about throwing deep],’’ he said. ‘‘I think Sunday it’ll be cleared up, and I’ll be fine.’’

More power to him. But let the record show he has been this resolute before. In 2007, after suffering a leg injury when he was sacked by the Lions’ Corey Rogers, he beat the Chiefs the next week but overcame an early interception to win without big numbers — 17-for-29 for 192 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 75.6 rating.

He suffered a finger injury on the first play against the Patriots in 2008, played through it and struggled early in a 41-7 loss. He finished 17-for-26 for 168 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 64.3 rating.

And when he suffered a concussion against the Giants in 2010 that forced him to miss a game, Cutler struggled against the Seahawks (69.4) and Redskins (four interceptions, 54.3) before finding his form. He’s 20-6 as a starter since, but not without artfully clearing the usual hurdles.

It’s true the circumstances might not be as adverse here. But if Cutler is sore Wednesday, it’s unlikely he’ll be in optimal condition Sunday. The Bears, though, don’t sound like they’re going to proceed with caution.

‘‘He’s sore, but we’re going to go,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. ‘‘[We were] a little cautious once he got hurt and didn’t want to expose him. But, no, he’s ready to go. I’m very pleased with Jay.’’



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