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Bears QB Jay Cutler brushes off toughness issue

Updated: July 30, 2011 2:06AM

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — When we last left Jay Cutler, the Bears quarterback had suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee that knocked him out of the NFC Championship Game and sparked a torrent of social-media criticism about his toughness and leadership qualities.

But a refreshed Cutler emerged apparently unscathed by anything that happened in an eventful offseason — from the knee injury to the criticism after the Packers game to the public breakup of his engagement to reality TV star Kristin Cavallari — when he met the media in good spirits Friday before the start of training camp.

‘‘I didn’t read that much. I kind of got away from it a bit,’’ Cutler said when asked about the national debate on his ‘‘toughness’’ after the NFC title game. ‘‘A lot of my toughness was questioned. That’s all new to me. It’s never been an issue for me or I’ve never been questioned about it.

‘‘Didn’t really know how to react to it. I know anyone who’s played with me or coached me has never questioned that. And I know the guys in the locker room aren’t going to. You can’t get caught up in that stuff. There’s going to be stuff coming at you left and right, and you kind of have to take it as it is and move on.’’

Cutler even gave a pass to the former and current NFL players who helped fuel the issue with critical comments on Twitter.

‘‘With Twitter and Facebook and social media these days, things just come out of guys’ mouths and it’s instantaneous — you can’t take it back,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘As long as I have the guys in my locker room behind me, I can’t worry about anything else.’’

His knee has healed, perhaps one positive aspect of the lockout that cost NFL teams their usual offseason schedule of minicamps and organized team activities.

‘‘It’s good,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘It took a couple of months. But the rest just helped a lot of guys, including myself.’’

The eve of camp brought a personal disappointment — the trade of his friend and favorite target, tight end Greg Olsen. But that, too, left Cutler unfazed.

‘‘It’s tough, but it’s part of the business,’’ he said. ‘‘I got traded from Denver, so I know kind of what he’s going through. He’s probably a little bit sad that he’s leaving Chicago, but he’s excited about what lies in the future. We wish him the best.’’

Asked if the disappointing end to last season left him with something to prove, Cutler challenged not only himself, but the entire offense to carry a bigger share of the load this season.

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