Minutes after John Fox announced that Jay Cutler would have surgery Saturday to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder, Bears players found out slowly — some of them from reporters — their quarterback would be lost for the season.
Pernell McPhee paused before speaking.
“That’s our quarterback,” he said. “That’s our leader on offense.”
McPhee, who yelled at Cutler on national television after a Week 2 interception but later called him his “brother,” was saddened.
“I wish him the best of luck,” McPhee said. “He’s been a great teammate. He’s a tough guy.”
To hear his teammates tell it, Cutler—who appeared in only five games this season and might have played his last with the Bears—was more. His personality ran counter to the outside perception of the quarterback as aloof and uncaring.
“He leads us in his own way,” running back Jeremy Langford said. “Especially a guy that’s been in the league as long as he has, he definitely was a leader. Not like everybody else wanted him to be. For us, he was.”
Backup quarterback David Fales called him “one of the more influential people in my career,” which is in its third season beside Cutler.
“People talk who aren’t in the building and don’t know him — don’t really know him — and aren’t around him and aren’t in the room with him and aren’t hearing the things he says and does,” Fales said. “I don’t think people really know him, who are talking about him sometimes.”
Receiver Cam Meredith said that “everybody’s not going to be right about who somebody is,” and said it was good to have Cutler in the Bears’ locker room.
Ask offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains how the outside image of Cutler compares to reality, and he points out that the quarterback is an elected captain who helped Brian Hoyer and then Matt Barkley prepare. Ask what he learned about Cutler since arriving before the 2015 season, and he makes a list.
“How tough he is,” Loggains said. “How much he cares. How much the team means to him. That’s been incredible to watch. There’s a perception and there’s a reality of that. Just, it’s been really fun the last two years getting to coach him. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Cutler managed only a .500 record with the Bears — a tenure that might be over if the team decides to cut him after the season. His last pass, skeptics will note, was an interception. But, even more tellingly, it was thrown with a torn labrum.
“You would never know (injuries were) bothering him, because he’s going out there every day working,” Meredith said. “It’s good to have a guy like that, who’s tough, who’s a leader and sets an example like that.”
Fox told reporters only eight days earlier than Cutler’s injury wasn’t season-ending. Thursday, he said his quarterback wanted to return and attempted different treatments while trying to rehab the shoulder he hurt Nov. 20 against the Giants. After speaking to doctors, he opted for surgery. He’ll be placed on injured reserve soon.
“Definitely in the last two years, he’s taken a lot of hits and gotten through a lot of injuries that sometimes you don’t even hear about,” Fales said. “And he’s playing through.”
Bears coaches have praised Cutler’s assistance while hurt, first after he sprained ligaments in his right thumb Week 2 and then Sunday against the Titans.
Fox joked that, knowing Cutler, he wouldn’t be surprised if he helped out on the sideline Sunday, a day after surgery.
Not that he expects him to.
“He’s been a big help for whatever quarterback has been in,” Fox said. “So he’s been tremendous just in regards to being hurt.”
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