Memo to Jay Cutler: Injuries find you in NFL, don’t seek them out
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com | @ricktelander September 24, 2013 9:58PM
Jay Cutler, Robert Golden
Updated: September 25, 2013 4:45PM
I think God gave us five fingers on each hand for a reason. Could be because it’s the best way to count to 10. Or perhaps it’s to separate us from all those cartoon creatures like Mickey Mouse who have four digits per hand.
At any rate, Arizona Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson now has slightly less than five fingers on his left hand after tearing off the tip of his middle finger while trying to tackle the New Orleans’ Saints Darren Sproles on a punt return.
Yuck is right.
The bone was sticking out and, well, that’s enough about that.
Football is a rough business, and crushed or amputated parts of fingers are not that rare. Think Ronnie Lott, if you will.
So when the NFL injury report comes in each week, you know there will be a list of injuries resembling a weekend of car crashes and falls off buildings. (Speaking of car crashes, how about Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson breaking his arm when he reached for two pizza boxes on his passenger seat and steered his car into the center median wall on a Detroit highway?)
Thus, many of the healthy parts God gave players rapidly go into disrepair as the games get played.
Consider that Johnson’s injury wasn’t the worst news the Cardinals received; two starting linebackers are out for the year with knee injuries. Sunday wasn’t great for the Dallas Cowboys, either, as they lost defensive end Anthony Spencer with a knee injury.
And, of course, right here with the Bears, we get the bad news that defensive tackle Henry Melton, the rock of the D-line, is gone for the year with an ACL tear in his left knee. Such are the forces in this violent game that Melton’s knee gave out simply from the stress of trying to beat Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro on a leveraged pass rush.
Knowing how swiftly both elite and low-level players go down in the NFL is what has many Bears fans in a dither over the blow quarterback Jay Cutler both delivered and received on a scramble for a first down against the Steelers on Sunday. It was a 13-yard run that kept a key touchdown drive alive, but it could have ended Cutler’s season on the spot.
Instead of sliding, as quarterbacks may do to remain un-hit, Cutler lowered his shoulder — his right throwing shoulder, no less — into 5-11, 202-pound safety Robert Golden and blasted the fellow like a fullback up the gut. Golden went flying, partly because Cutler outweighs him by about 20 pounds but also because of the element of surprise.
That instant before a QB slides or keeps running a hard spot to be in. Try to bury the quarterback and you’ll get a penalty and stiff fine. Wait for him to run into you and you can look like a clown — a flying one, at that.
But the real risk is all the quarterback’s. Defensive backs and linebackers are a dime a dozen. Good QBs are at least a few bucks more.
‘‘I wanted to make sure I had the first down,’’ Cutler said when asked about the recklessness. ‘‘We were struggling on third down, and I wanted to make sure we kept the drive going.’’
Well, he did. And it was big for the Bears.
But we have all seen how the Bears do when Cutler is out with an injury, and the extra yard he picked up was a scary one indeed.
There are those of us who remember quarterbacks like Bobby Douglass and the Minnesota Vikings’ Joe Kapp looking for DBs to mow down on runs. But that was when the game was different and the vector forces weren’t quite like these today. Plus, those fellows’ throwing arms were more like battering rams than slingshots.
It’s possible now that DBs and LBs will be looking for Cutler to run full-tilt, and they might be instructed to assume he’s going head-first rather than feet-first into the slide. That could bode ill for future games, and maybe Cutler had better lie down a little more on runs, maybe forever.
But, personally, I loved the crazy spirit of Cutler’s big moment. Football implies risk. Plus, it was a lot better than getting injured by being hit in the head with a bottle (a champagne bottle wielded by a stripper to the noggin of the Baltimore Ravens’ Jacoby Jones) or going off to rehab (the San Francisco 49ers’ star linebacker, Aldon Smith).
But maybe that once — for the time being — was enough.