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Jay Cutler effusive in praise of third-string QB Josh McCown

Jay Cutler told GM Phil Emery thhe wasn’t happy when Bears cut Josh McCown (12) ­before season. | Tony Dejak~AP

Jay Cutler told GM Phil Emery that he wasn’t happy when the Bears cut Josh McCown (12) ­before the season. | Tony Dejak~AP

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Updated: January 7, 2013 1:30PM



With the face of the franchise shelved, perhaps the Bears should commence the inevitable makeover.

The absence of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher for at least three games is a blow to the Bears. But quarterback Jay Cutler has reinforced over the last month — on and off the field — how indispensible he is as the club prepares for a postseason push.

The Bears’ leading man isn’t shy about proclaiming receiver Brandon Marshall’s significance, but Cutler said there’s another player he leans on heavily: third-string quarterback Josh McCown.

“There are so many different aspects to what he brings to this team, especially for me,” Cutler said. “He’s been in a lot of different situations, and he’s been in the league a long time. He’s had success, he’s had down years, and he’s just a positive guy.

“It’s a grind-it-out league, and you need some optimism and some positivity, and he brings that.”

McCown signed with the Bears in November 2011, three days after Cutler fractured his thumb in a 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers. He backed up Caleb Hanie, then snapped a five-game losing streak by leading the Bears to a 17-13 victory in the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.

McCown played well in the preseason, but he was released Aug. 31.

That decision didn’t sit well with Cutler.

“When we let him go, I talked to [general manager Phil Emery], and I told him I wasn’t happy about it,” Cutler said. “I wanted [McCown] around.

“They did their best to bring him back, but we kept getting beat up with different guys. It took me getting a concussion to bring him back.”

Cutler then smiled before adding, “I took one for the team there, but hopefully we keep him around.”

Then he turned serious again.

“If I’m here, I want him here,” Cutler said. “That’s how I feel about it.”

McCown, 33, is signed for the rest of the season. Cutler’s deal expires after the 2013 season, but teams typically try
to avoid entering the final year
of a starting quarterback’s contract.

It’s professional and personal, Cutler said.

After McCown was released, he and Cutler stayed in contact each week, at least via text messages. Earlier in the season, they often communicated about fatherhood.

Cutler and fiancée Kristen ­Cavallari welcomed the arrival of son Camden in August.

Asked if McCown gave him parenting tips, Cutler said, “Absolutely. He’s had kids during the season, he’s gone through some stuff. He’s had more experience than I have in life.”

Lending advice was easy for McCown, the father of four, the oldest a 14-year-old daughter.

“I appreciate his desire to be a good father,” McCown said. “It’s been neat to listen to his stories about raising a little baby. It’s very reminiscent for me thinking back on those times.”

Cutler, though, also counts on McCown and Jason Campbell to provide insight during games and in meetings. The three veterans get along, but Cutler said he fully expects Campbell to move on next year.

“I just don’t envision Jason being a backup here,” Cutler said. “He’s going to go somewhere and get a chance to play.”

McCown, meanwhile, embraces whatever his role is, part of the positive approach Cutler appreciates about him.

Cutler jokingly noted another important way McCown assists him.

“I can’t always be the bad guy, ripping everybody, telling someone this or this,” Cutler said. “Sometimes, he says, ‘I’ll talk to him.’ Just doing things like that helps a lot.”

McCown is flattered by Cutler’s support. He said the two “just clicked.”

“From a football standpoint, it’s fun because he’s so talented,” McCown said. “But from a friendship standpoint, you just appreciate watching someone you’re really close with and you’re excited for them when they’re successful.”



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