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Bears haven't helped Cutler at all

Can Bears keep Cutler upright?
Can Bears keep Cutler upright?
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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LAKE FOREST, Ill.

Jay Cutler looked like a cartoon character who had just been flattened by a steamroller. The Chicago Bears scraped him up with a putty knife, and he went over to the end of the bench and just stood there.

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All by himself. All alone.

And it was, well, sad really. Troy Aikman, analyzing the game Sunday at New Orleans, tried to explain it away. But whatever Cutler was doing there, whatever he was thinking, assuming he even knew what his name was at the moment, the defining picture had been painted.

Jay Cutler was the loneliest man on the planet.

The Bears left Cutler alone to dig out of any personal and professional ditches without any tools. And now he has taken such a massive beating through the first two games that he actually has become a sympathetic figure.

“Just a little bit sore,’’ he whispered Wednesday. A New Orleans player stepped on Cutler’s throat and he can barely talk. “It’s coming back.

"Yesterday, it was worse than this, so it’s getting there.’’

What else hurts, other than the throat?

“Hips,’’ he said. “Go down the list. I’ll be ready though.’’

He is the Bears quarterback, but people question his toughness, his attitude, his maturity. He changed himself in the offseason, lost weight, got in shape. He came back this year committed, with a chance to prove himself again. And what happened? The Bears gave him no offensive line, no receivers, no reliable playmakers, really, other than running back Matt Forte. They took away his favorite target, too (Greg Olsen).

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And they left things to offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has a history of getting his own quarterbacks killed.

What a spot for Cutler. The Bears will play their rival, the Green Bay Packers, on Sunday in Chicago. And his career always will be measured by how he does against Green Bay and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

To Chicagoans, they are rival teams, rival players.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said that after a bad week, it’s ideal to get the automatic motivation from playing a rival, not to mention the Super Bowl champs, at home. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he shows his players a video of old games and new in the rivalry to get the players to understand what this game is about.

It is vicious and angry and historical. And I wouldn’t bet on Cutler surviving the game.

Rodgers has developed into a Super Bowl champion for Green Bay while Cutler has been clobbered, questioned and then clobbered some more.

Cutler has been criticized, ridiculed — and defended, too — for what happened in last season’s NFC Championship Game between these teams.

You remember: He was terrible until early in the third quarter, when he left the game with a knee injury.

A handful of players around the league openly questioned on Twitter whether he was really too hurt to play, or if he had just tapped out.

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Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he would have kept playing: “I’d have to be taken off in a cart.’’

A few days later, the Bears reported that Cutler had a slightly torn meniscus in his knee. Didn’t Forte play an entire season on that injury?

“Yeah,’’ Forte said. “It hurt. It hurt. But this is the NFL. We play hurt.’’

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo played Sunday with a fractured rib and a punctured lung. But what about Cutler? Should he have played to the end of the championship game?

“Jay’s situation was different from mine,’’ Forte said. “His grade of injury was more severe than mine. But I also had a torn hamstring at the same time.’’

With the Bears playing Green Bay, everything is going to be rehashed again on TV. Cutler’s toughness will be questioned, and then he will suffer another beating from the Packers.

“He’s not worried about that this week,’’ Forte said. “Coming into the season, he wasn’t worried about that. We have to move on now.’’

The truth is that a few weeks ago I wrote that Cutler still had to win back some of the players in his own locker room. I still believe that.

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But at the same time, Forte is right about moving on.

And if Cutler does have anything to prove, it might already be happening by the way he keeps getting back up this season. He has been sacked a league-leading 11 times in two games, or the same number he suffered his entire final year at Denver in 2008. Some reports indicate that Cutler also was knocked down 16 times Sunday.

David Carr became a sympathetic figure in Houston a few years ago, sacked 76 times. He hasn’t been the same since.

Someone asked Cutler if he has recovered from Sunday’s beating?

“Still working on it,’’ he said. “I’m not quite there yet. But I’ll be there by Sunday.’’

Can you make it through the season if you keep suffering this kind of punishment?

“I don’t know,’’ he said. “I don’t know.’’

There is no way. The Bears ran 52 pass plays to only 11 runs on Sunday, with mastermind Martz leaving Cutler back there in the pocket with no one blocking.

Offensive line coach Mike Tice said he has lost 12 pounds and would consider suiting up just to protect Cutler: “I don’t know if I have anything in me but the National Anthem, but I’ll give it a whirl.’’

And on the Bears website, GM Jerry Angelo defended the horrible offensive line he assembled: “We did everything you could possibly do to that position. Nobody did more than the Chicago Bears.’’

They drafted an offensive lineman in the first round, dumped a top-flight center and replaced him with a mediocre one.

Cutler is still just standing there by himself. Part of that is his own doing, from years of his aloof personality. But his peers, media, his own team officials have all ganged up on him, too. A man questioned for his toughness can do nothing but stand there alone, and be flattened.

The Bears don’t bring a game plan, a receiver or an offensive line for him. But at least they’ll have the putty knife.

Tagged: Bears, Packers, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte

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