In the week leading up to the Bears’ 2009 training camp, almost four months after the Bears acquired quarterback Jay Cutler, news broke that Brian Urlacher allegedly had called Cutler a pussy cat — well, he didn’t use the word “cat”; that was added by me.
The report came from a Minnesota radio station, which interviewed Bobby Wade, former Bears receiver and a friend of Urlacher. Wade told the radio station that Urlacher made those comments to him that offseason.
Urlacher denied the claim and cleared the air with Cutler before there were any lingering problems heading into camp.
A year and a half later, the two faces of the Chicago Bears have certainly come a long way. First, there was this photo, one of my favorites, from the Chicago Tribune of Urlacher congratulating Cutler after a touchdown pass during the playoff game against Seattle two weeks ago:
That doesn’t look like two contentious players to me. If Urlacher has sour feelings towards Cutler, he sure is masking it behind an enormous, elated grin… on the field, nonetheless, as opposed to waiting for him on the sideline.
Then, after Cutler was basically called a wimp again, this time by the Twitter-sphere after he was injured in the conference championship game and was unable to finish it, it was Urlacher who vehemently rebuked those comments made by players, fans, and the media, and staunchly stood by his battered quarterback.
“Jay was hurt,” Urlacher said after the game. “I don’t question his toughness. He’s tough as hell. He’s one of the toughest guys on our football team. He doesn’t bitch. He doesn’t complain when he gets hit. He goes out there and plays his ass off every Sunday. He practices every single day. So, no, we don’t question his toughness.”
It would only seem fitting now if Urlacher offered Cutler a bit of advice. And that advice would be: don’t get mad, get even.
You see, Urlacher experienced a bit of negativity six seasons ago as many questioned not his toughness, but certainly his talent. He was voted in a Sporting News article as the most overrated player in the NFL in 2004.
Urlacher carried that with him throughout the offseason and taped that article in his locker the following season. What resulted from it was him being named the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2005.
That’s the type of storybook ending Cutler sure could use. You couldn’t write a better movie script about Urlacher back then, or Cutler now.
I don’t believe Cutler will be offensive player of the year next season, though. Whereas Urlacher was one of the top defensive players in the league when he was called overrated, Cutler is not one of the very best offensive players in the league at this point, when players, fans, and the media are questioning his toughness.
But he doesn’t have to be one of the best. All he has to do is place a chip on his shoulder and strive to get better this offseason.
Then he can come out and be one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league and help lead the Bears right back into the playoffs in 2011.
But it’s up to him to fuel that desire and make it happen.