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TELANDER: Let’s see how well Jay Cutler does filling Josh McCown’s shoes

Backup quarterback Josh McCown (12) couldn’t have played much better than did while filling for injured Jay Cutler (left). |

Backup quarterback Josh McCown (12) couldn’t have played much better than did while filling in for injured Jay Cutler (left). | Mike Roemer/AP

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Updated: December 11, 2013 6:24AM



Jay Cutler is back from his groin injury and ready to start Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

That he came back so quickly from an injury once thought to need six weeks or so to heal isn’t remarkable. Medical people said only a few days into his recovery that Cutler was healing quickly and would be ready to go soon.

Cutler is tough. He showed that last season when he was leg-whipped and crushed on a sack by the Lions’ evil Ndamukong Suh. To those of us in attendance that day at Ford Field, it seemed 50/50 whether Cutler would be alive after the blow. But he gathered himself and didn’t miss a down.

Now Cutler is replacing backup quarterback Josh McCown, who is coming off a victory against the Packers in which he passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a good 90.7 passer rating. Two weeks before, with Cutler out early, McCown finished with a terrific 119.6 rating against the Redskins. He threw a touchdown in that game. He still hasn’t thrown an interception in 2013.

Yes, McCown is a backup, and you don’t lose your job to backup. Well, not usually. Unless you’re Alex Smith and 49ers youngster Colin Kaepernick butts in. Then, too, one vaguely recalls how Packers quarterback Don Majkowski went out with an injury in 1992 and a fellow named Brett Favre came off the bench and started for most of the next two decades.

But Cutler is the guy here in Chicago. He’s healed and rested. Here’s hoping he makes fans forget about the 34-year-old journeyman who briefly took his place.

† THE RICHIE INCOGNITO-JONATHAN MARTIN harassment issue with the Dolphins is an ongoing mess. It has been reported that Dolphins coaches might have asked veteran Incognito to ‘‘toughen up’’ the second-year Martin by intimidating and verbally abusing him. Both players are off the team, and the NFL is investigating.

I don’t know where this thing will end, but one thing is clear: Someday, both could benefit as human beings by losing 100 pounds.

† THE CUBS HAVE a new manager, Rick Renteria, who will be at the helm for the next three years or so — unless he gets fired, which was the fate of the guy before him, Dale Sveum. If Renteria is more than a place-holder, which seems unlikely, it might mean the Theo Epstein-led Cubs are going in the right direction.

But I just don’t know. Anything is up from 197 losses in two seasons. Renteria is of Mexican-American descent, and his Spanish will be helpful with a bunch of Latin players set to fill the Cubs’ roster. But language only gets you so far. The Cubs are hinting that 2015 might be when they’ll be ready to compete at the major-league level. And Renteria might be a rent-a-manager by then.

I wonder how long it will be before the first-time skipper realizes that he never has been in a land like Cubdom, that there is nothing like it in this world and that he will need the rest of his life to recover from it.

† ACCORDING TO A REPORT on ESPN’s ‘‘Outside the Lines,’’ Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Joe DeLamielleure and former All-Pro defensive lineman Leonard Marshall have signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.

This condition manifests itself in symptoms such as depression, mood disorder, personality change, headaches, sleeplessness, dementia and suicide. It’s not curable. It’s not something anybody wants.

But at every high school, college and NFL game that I attend, I see players who are proud beyond words of their scarred, enemy-paint-encrusted helmets. Those helmets are signs of machismo, of having been tough, relentless and stoic. The scars and paint come from battering with the head.

But sacrificing one’s brain is a fool’s game. We know that now, and only a fool will continue behavior that is, in some cases, literally suicidal.

I’ve spoken with DeLamielleure in the past, and he’s a tough guy who has railed at the NFL because of its lack of benefits for retired players. And this was before he knew he was brain-damaged.

Dorsett is a guy I spent quite a bit of time with when he was a star running back for the Cowboys. He was verbal, outgoing and concerned about his football legacy even as he was running away from men who dwarfed him in size. He was carefree, sure and living on the edge.

He never dreamed he’d be confused, forgetful, depressed and, as he says, getting worse every day. At age 59.

Yes, football, this is your crossroads.



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