Cutler to prove he's no 'quitter'

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler sits on the sideline in the third quarter after leaving the...

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler sits on the sideline in the third quarter after leaving the game with an injury against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/AFP)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:58 PM ET

Of all the quarterbacks in all the NFL camps a case could be made that the one with the most to prove this season is the Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler.

When last seen Cutler was a forlorn figure on the sidelines of a frozen Soldier Field in the NFC championship game, one the Bears would lose to the Green Bay Packers, 21-14.

It is well documented how Cutler had an injured left knee and -- forced to the sidelines -- how immediately both fans and NFL players called him a 'quitter' and heaped nothing but scorn and abuse on a player whose temperament, poor body language and reputation were all called into question.

The real shock was how readily other NFL players would join in the post-game pile-on, which tells you all you need to know about the lack of respect he has forged and the ill-will he has helped foster

It is hard to think of another quarterback, given the same set of circumstances, that would be hammered as much as Cutler was.

Cutler has a large rock from which he must climb out from under in what will be his sixth NFL season.

The 'quitter' tag, though not deserved, is one that sticks and it will take heroic performances and Super Bowl appearances to remove the stain. That's not fair, but that's the way it is.

It's early and all as the NFL settles into readiness for next week's first round of pre-season games, but it seems as if Cutler is at least aware that a change of attitude, a maturation of sorts, is as necessary as the cannon that is his right arm.

Cutler, who can appear to be aloof and disengaged, was the first Bear to report to camp, a positive sign in itself.

"I am excited about where we are now with this team and stuff," Cutler said that day. "I'm going to (submerge) myself in football and move from there."

Leadership or lack of same has always been a question regarding Cutler and he will need to work on that missing ingredient if he wants to move the dial regarding his image both with the fans and within the league.

When he reported to camp he was asked about all the negativity that was heaped on him following the loss to Green Bay.

"You know, I didn't read that much," he said. "I kind of got away for a little bit.

"A lot of my toughness and everything else was questioned. You know, that's all news to me. That never has been an issue to me (nor) have I been questioned about it. Didn't really know how to react to it, but I know that anyone who has played with me or coached me has never questioned that. You can't get caught up in that stuff."

You may not try to get caught up in it but you have to live through it, have to acknowledge that your reputation is at an all-time low.

In the coming weeks and months Cutler doesn't have to prove his toughness as much as he needs to prove that he's a leader, a winner, a player who can rally the troops and be a positive force both on and off the field.

He's just 28 and there's room for so much growth.

QUICK HITS

Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis signed a five-year, $35-million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars of which close to $17 million is guaranteed. The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on Lewis after he caught 58 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns last season ... It seems that the $3.5 million, one-year contract that the San Francisco 49ers gave to wide receiver Braylon Edwards is not guaranteed. The $3.5 million is what Edwards will earn only if he reaches all his incentives, including catching 90 passes and making the Pro Bowl. He has a base salary of $1 million but only if he makes the team ... The Pittsburgh Steelers signed linebacker LaMarr Woodley to a six-year, $61.5 million contract that runs through the 2016 season. The contract replaces a one-year, $10 million deal agreed to in February when the Steelers placed the franchise player tag on Woodley ...

Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson was released from hospital and dropped by their practice facility Friday. His agent said Patterson will see a neurologist in the next few days. Patterson collapsed and went into a seizure on Wednesday. The next day the Eagles announced that Patterson had a brain condition that may require surgery.

GIANTS FEUD

The feud between defensive end Osi Umenyiora and the New York Giants appears to have reached an impasse.

The Daily News reports that Umenyiora has refused to practise and told the Giants he has a sore knee. The paper adds that Umenyiora also told the Giants he might "need" surgery on that knee to repair a torn meniscus.

Whether Umenyiora is really injured or is using the injury as an excuse not to participate in drills isn't known. What is known is that Umenyiora is not a happy camper as the Giants are not willing to re-do his contract and up his salary to $10 million a year. Earlier in the week the Giants told his agent he could try and find a team that would be willing to trade for him but when no one would meet the asking price of a first-round pick, Umenyiora was told to get to work.

Now Umenyiora claims he's hurt and continues to sit it out.


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