Cutler critics not budging

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

Almost two weeks after the fact, the Jay Cutler “did-he-quit-or-was-he-truly-injured?” saga won’t go away.

Even after an MRI revealed a Grade II MCL tear in his knee, the Chicago Bears quarterback’s earliest critics remain either unconvinced that he could not have played more than a single series in the second half of the NFC championship game or flat-out don’t believe their initial skepticism warrants an apology now that the MRI has proven there was, in fact, an injury.

“There’s perception and reality. The perception is he tapped out,” former all-Pro cornerback Deion Sanders told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday. “The reality is the kid may really be hurt. But that’s perception and reality.

“I’m not backing down from that statement. But it doesn’t help his cause that he’s walking up a flight of stairs to eat dinner (and) he’s shopping in California.”

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew who, like Sanders, took to his Twitter account to express his disappointment that Cutler bailed on his team in the second half of that NFC title game, sounded more like a man wishing he hadn’t done so, but at the same time refused to apologize for anything.

Instead, Jones-Drew went the tried and tested route of blaming the media for the situation.

“I really think that the media took it out of control and got offended by it because players said it before certain media said it,” Jones-Drew told USA Today.

Former Jags quarterback and Steelers backup Byron Leftwich probably handled the Cutler questions as well as anyone. Leftwich dealt with the same injury for the first month of the season after he was hurt in a pre-season game.

“I don’t know if the adrenalin is any different from a pre-season game to an NFC championship game. But, man, I was really hurting,” Leftwich told the Sun-Times. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t have tried, but I’m just saying it was painful. I promise you, if (Cutler’s injury) was anything like mine, it’s hard to do.”

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For the final three games of the regular season, Kyle Orton watched and Tim Tebow started at quarterback for the Broncos.

Granted, Orton was injured for part of that, but projecting that to the following season, the writing would appear to be on the wall for Orton.

Not so fast, says the Broncos new vice-president of football operations, a guy by the name of John Elway who knows a thing or two about the quarterback position.

“Kyle is definitely in the equation,” Elway said during a radio interview at the Super Bowl on Wednesday. “It’s not a foregone conclusion we’re going to trade Kyle at all. We still have to evaluate that part. I think a lot of people think it’s automatic. It’s not,” Elway said.

If anything, this might just be Elway’s way of buying Tebow a little time.

“Tim, as I said, is a very good football player, he’s not a great quarterback, yet. Hopefully, we can make him a great quarterback, but that’s going to take some time, he’s young and inexperienced, but a guy that is a competitor,” Elway said.

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Chad Ochocinco just can’t seem to make up his mind on his name.

One day it’s: “All this Ochocinco business has to go.”

The next day, the Bengals’ disgruntled wideout is saying he likes “Ocho” because it’s unique.

As of Thursday, Ochocinco had decided to flip on his earlier decision to go back to his original surname of Johnson and was going to stick with Ochocinco.

“There’s enough Johnsons in this world,” Ochocinco told the Bengals website. “There’s only one Ocho.”

So with a name change now all but out of the question how about a team change?

Ocho and head coach Marvin Lewis ended the season in a war of words. Whether that will affect Ocho’s return remains unknown.

“It’s (owner) Mike Brown’s decision,” No. 85 said. “As far as I’m concerned, I will be a Bengal next season.”

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Sam Bradford is already in his hurry-up offence.

The Rams’ outstanding rookie quarterback has a little more than a month to learn incoming offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels' offence before he will potentially be cut off from his new boss.

If a collective bargaining agreement is not reached by March 4, players will not be able to contact their coaches until one is. That leaves Bradford rushing to learn as much as he can in the next month and, if a lockout does occur, teaching his receivers all that he has learned about the new offence.

Bradford says he has every intention of getting his receivers together for informal workouts in the event of a lockout.

“I would imagine as long as I get the playbook before the lockout happens, then I see no reason why I would have to turn it in,” Bradford told ESPN recently. “That is going to be big if there is a lockout and I can’t continue to go to St. Louis and meet with (McDaniels). It will be something I have to do on my own, which is going to be tough. This next month is big for me.”

It’s another reason Rams fans should be smiling. They certainly seem to have found a keeper in Bradford.

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LaDainian Tomlinson sounds like he wants to come back.

And all indications are Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum will be giving him that option.

But depending on his audience — whether it’s nationwide ESPN or one of the local fishwraps — LT is altering his message. For the national audience, Tomlinson comes across as a guy ready and willing to step up as soon as he gets the word from Tannenbaum.

“I would definitely like to play, no question,” Tomlinson told ESPNNewYork.com. “Really and truly, I’m under contract, and I fully expect to play football with the Jets next year. Until I’m told otherwise, I just expect to be there.”

Locally, the message is almost the same, but the lack of a firm commitment from management about bringing him back has Tomlinson feeling a little sorry for himself.

“Part of it really does suck,” Tomlinson, who turns 32 in June, told the New York Daily News. “It really does for me. To be in limbo … sometimes, I just want to say: ‘You know what? I’m just going to retire.’”

The way Tomlinson feels, his coming-back should have already been addressed.

“It’s kind of a messed-up feeling to be in,” Tomlinson said, “because I feel like we had a great season. Things went well. But here, there are questions about whether I’m going to come back (with the one) year that I have left (on my contract). So, who knows?”

Perhaps LaDainian needs to just let the process play out before he gets his shorts in too tight a knot.

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Jay Gruden, younger brother of the former Tampa Bay and Oakland Raiders head coach, has been named offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. Jay was an assistant on Jon Gruden’s Tampa teams from 2002-08 and has been a head coach in the AFL. He inherits an offence in turmoil. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer is demanding a trade ... The Atlanta Falcons’ early demise in the NFL playoffs this year has not hurt head coach Mike Smith. Smith has signed to a three-year extension following his team’s NFC best 13-3 record. In his three years in Atlanta, Smith has made the playoffs each season and has a combined record of 33-17 ... The Green Bay Packers may have the keys to the Dallas Cowboys home locker room for the big game on Sunday, but they’re just now being told that might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out the home locker room is known for its lack of hot water following games. The Cowboys experienced it all year and were smart enough not to complain given their performance. “With the season we had, I’d have turned off the hot water, too,” Cowboys’ Jay Ratliff said, referring to the Cowboys’ disappointing 6-10 campaign ... A month to go before a potential lockout and the issues that need to be settled are multiplying. The latest is the league’s belief that it can still put the franchise tag on a player and retain his rights for the 2011 season. The franchise tag can be applied to an unrestricted free agent for the following year. The team must pay the player the average salary of the top five paid players at his position or 120% of his previous year’s salary — whichever is greater. The NFLPA is instructing it’s members to contact the PA offices as soon as the team mentions the franchise tag. The NFLPA does not believe the league can franchise players without a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place.


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