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What Jay Cutler should have done

KristCavallari Jay Cutler spend day The Grove Los Angeles. 
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Non-Exclusive Jan. 26th 2011 Los Angeles CA

©NATIONAL PHOTO GROUP Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler spend the day at The Grove in Los Angeles. Job: 012611C6 Non-Exclusive Jan. 26th, 2011 Los Angeles, CA

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Updated: May 4, 2011 4:45AM

What was Jay Cutler thinking?

The Bears’ quarterback did so much wrong Sunday in the biggest game of his career — and on national TV.

He headed to the locker room with one of the team’s medical officials — unbeknownst to most people sitting at Soldier Field and in their homes — but he should have called on two linemen to carry him.

He tried out his left knee on the opening series of the third quarter after undergoing a series of tests and treatments, and he walked off after a three-and-out and picked a seat on the bench. But Cutler should have endured a third sack, rolled around and waited for a motorized cart to remove him from the field, his nails dug into the choppy turf.

He watched the duration of the game from the sideline, sometimes seated on the bench next to third-stringer Caleb Hanie, sometimes standing alone on the sideline, mostly with a blank poker face. But he should have called his girlfriend, Kristin Cavallari, for some quick acting tips, scooted around on crutches, then donned a headset and peppered Hanie with motivational quotes and playbook insights while high-fiving and chest-bumping other teammates on the sideline, all on one leg.

It’s a new day when people thousands of miles apart, from all walks of life, can have conversations and debates through social-media sites. But the snarky comments once isolated to those immediately around you now can be broadcast worldwide, or at least to the ones who ‘‘follow’’ you on Twitter.

Personally, I enjoy Twitter. I use Facebook to connect with my friends, and I use Twitter to connect with my readers. The former is mostly for pictures and anecdotes about my family, the latter for pictures and anecdotes about me and my job.

But as Twitter’s popularity rapidly rises, it becomes clear there are no rules of engagement. Lines are crossed, people are offended, stories are embellished, perceptions are realized.

There’s no greater example than Sunday.

Tom Brady and Hines Ward both have left AFC title games because of injury and didn’t return for the second half. Ward, considered one of the league’s toughest players, suffered the same injury in the 2009 AFC title game as Cutler did Sunday — a torn medial collateral ligament.

Yet Cutler faced a barrage of immediate attacks on his toughness by fans and players alike.

And it didn’t end there. How he has walked at a restaurant or a shopping mall also is being trumpeted as ‘‘news,’’ the latter instance taking place in Los Angeles when he was filmed by TMZ while shopping with Cavallari.

In the weeks to come, other videos of Cutler are sure to crop up.

It’s ‘‘The Truman Show,’’ circa 2011, starring Cutler instead of Jim Carrey.

Truman, of course, didn’t know everything he did was being watched by millions. Cutler knows — but he doesn’t care. Or at least he has pretended not to.

So what was Cutler thinking?

He didn’t want to be a distraction Sunday. The only people Cutler has cared to impress are his relatives, his coaches and his teammates. In the days leading up to the NFC Championship Game, I had a telling conversation with center Olin Kreutz about Cutler.

‘‘We always say in our locker room [that] we take guys for their actions and not their words,’’ Kreutz said. ‘‘And a lot of guys in the NFL will give you a lot of smoke, a lot of ‘I love my team, I love this and I love that.’ But their actions don’t show it.

‘‘Jay won’t give you a lot of smoke. He just shows you. Day in and day out at practices, he works, and you don’t see him promoting himself. He just wants to be one of us. Guys can blow smoke and shake your hand and be your friend in your face and be a total [expletive]. So we appreciate that about him.’’

Cutler tried to return, and the Bears shelved him for the remainder of the game. That he stayed on the sideline — standing, even — wasn’t a problem, said Dr. Neal ElAttrache, an orthopedic surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles and a team doctor for the Dodgers. Only time will heal Cutler’s knee.

And for anyone questioning why he didn’t return, ElAttrache said a Grade II MCL tear would be difficult for a right-handed quarterback such as Cutler to play through. Cutler’s left knee is the one he uses to plant.

‘‘I don’t care if it’s golf or pitchers when it’s your front leg,” ElAttrache said. ‘‘You can’t perform at that level.’’

So next time you see footage of Cutler walking, educate yourself about a Grade II MCL tear.

‘‘It’s very common to be able to walk and climb stairs, often able to jog straight ahead,’’ said ElAttrache, who performed Brady’s reconstructive knee surgery in 2008. ‘‘The public reaction to his activity is understandable but misinformed. In reality, it’s not appropriate.’’

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