Moore’s remarks about Cutler an anomaly on tight-knit Bears
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 19, 2012 9:56PM
The Chicago Bears offense huddles up around quarterback Jay Cutler during an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Updated: October 21, 2012 3:01PM
In the ocean of NFL news, Bears cornerback D.J. Moore’s critical comments about quarterback Jay Cutler normally would generate barely a ripple.
Despite his credibility as a playmaker, Moore isn’t a starter, and he doesn’t play on offense.
Yet his take resonated in Chicago not only for its honesty, but its rarity.
While teams such as the Jets, Saints and Cowboys dominate national headlines, the Bears are among the teams intent on avoiding the spotlight and spectacle.
Bears coach Lovie Smith fosters a “keep it in the family” environment that’s surely viewed, in the eyes of the McCaskeys, as one of his greatest strengths.
Consider the take of Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman, who is in his 10th season with the Bears, on Moore’s remarks.
“There are going to be discrepancies here and there like in any household,” Tillman said. “But you do want to keep things in-house.
“We all kind of blow up from time to time. But that situation is behind us now. There was a lot learned from that. But in the future instances, it’ll be handled a lot different.”
So the Bears will try to return to their Matrix, an insular world in which Moore’s comments are an anomaly.
But will they succeed?
During his show on WMVP-AM (1000) on Tuesday, Cutler explained his leadership style and the dynamic in the Bears’ locker room.
“I’m not the most vocal leader on our team,” he said. “I don’t think we have a lot of vocal leaders. We’ve got some guys that just go to work and do it the right way, just real professionals about their job.”
There doesn’t seem to be a leadership shortage at Halas Hall. Long snapper Patrick Mannelly is the team’s longest-tenured player, and returning veterans Tillman, Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Matt Forte consistently play at a Pro Bowl level.
But there isn’t an obvious, outspoken leader such as former perennial Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz.
“I don’t think we have vocal leaders such as Olin,” Tillman said. “But I do believe we have leaders, guys who lead by example. They’re not as vocal, but they do know how to lead.”
Kreutz couldn’t be reached for comment, but former Bears tight end Desmond Clark said the center was “definitely the guy.”
“If something was going wrong in the locker room, Olin was the guy who said, ‘What’s going on? What do we need to do about it?’ ”
Clark said what made the Bears’ locker room so tight was a genuine like for one another and for Smith. For most of his tenure (2003-’10), Clark said players bought into “the brotherhood,” a mentality that they could say anything privately to one another or in a group and it would be held in confidence.
If a problem did arise, Clark said, a player might air the issue to Kreutz or Urlacher, who would bring it up with Smith.
“One of the good things about it, if you voice a strong enough opinion, Lovie is not going to just let things sit there and fester,” Clark said.
Smith said Wednesday that he talks about anything related to how his players should act on and off the field.
“It’s just not an approach you take when something happens,” he said. “There’s constant communication going on with our football team on what it’s like and what is expected of them being a Chicago Bear.”
While he didn’t address his conversation with Moore, Smith said he doesn’t censor his players.
“I talk to our players, but I don’t tell them what to say, and I don’t stop them from saying anything,” Smith said. “If you have something to say, just make sure you put your name behind it.
“But the message to our football team is that we’re a team and there’s a reason why we don’t let everybody in. There are things that you should keep within our group.”
Tillman said it’s a matter of respect, not only for one another, but for Smith.
“We follow Coach’s lead,” Tillman said. “I don’t think this would be a good environment if everyone just talked about everybody all the time. If you have a problem with a person, you go to that person and you say something.
“That’s what we do on this team, and it works for us.”