BOURBONNAIS — It’s been two years since Brandon Marshall set foot at Olivet Nazarene University and a year since Martellus Bennett played for the Bears.
Yet Jay Cutler was asked about them Wednesday as if they’d never left, like their me-first specters still roamed the dorms.
They were traded, but didn’t stopped talking.
Credit Cutler for making it a one-sided conversation. The quarterback didn’t have a WWE-style reaction to Bennett’s slam, nor did he get chesty about Marshall’s praise, and showed maturity when asked why his former targets keep discussing him.
“I don’t know, man,” Cutler said after training camp practice. “I could say something clever and smart, but I’ll just pass.”
He wouldn’t have done that five years ago, when his bratty schoolboy persona would have teed up something for “First Take” to scream about the next morning.
His former teammates could take a lesson.
In an ESPN The Magazine feature published Wednesday, Bennett, who was dealt to the Patriots in March for a fourth-round pick, said that “I’d be open and he’d throw into double coverage.” His brother Michael, the Seahawks defensive lineman, called Cutler “the worst quarterback in the NFL.”
“Most receivers and tight ends are always open,” he said. “So hopefully (the Patriots’) Tom (Brady), I guess, can do a better job of finding him than I did.”
Tuesday, Marshall repeated the claim he made outside the ONU cafeteria two years ago — one he backed off last season, when he declared Kyle Orton the best quarterback he’d ever played with.
“I’ll go out on a limb and say this again: I truly believe if Alshon Jeffery stays healthy and then you have Kevin White — if this rookie can come in and catch 55-plus balls — Jay Cutler can be an MVP this year,” he told ESPN’s “First Take” after Jets practice. “I truly believe that.”
Cutler found humor in the fact that Marshall praised him a day before Bennett’s quote was published saying the opposite.
“You can’t please everybody,” Cutler said. “We’re at both ends of the spectrum here. We wish both those guys good luck.
“I had fun playing with them here, and that’s just kinda how it goes. Guys play for different teams, and we wish them both the best of luck.”
Let’s be clear: Cutler’s former teammates talk about him publicly, not the other way around. Maybe they’re upset about his seven-year, $126.7 million contract, or the fact that he stayed and they didn’t. Only Robbie Gould has been with the Bears longer.
Cutler could have said Wednesday that Bennett and Marshall were dealt because the Bears decided that managing their personalities was not worth the talent they brought to the field. Or that Marshall has been traded three times; dating to 1995, only three other players can say the same. Or that Bennett has started training camp with his fourth team in six years.
Instead, Cutler took the high road. Again.
In a league that promotes the Cult of the Quarterback, either could discussed their own team’s drama: Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract holdout in New York or Brady’s four-game “Deflategate” suspension. Three-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long guessed that former Bears talk about Cutler because “they’re not here anymore.”
“I could care less what somebody who is not on our team thinks about our players,” said Long, one of Cutler’s best friends on the team. “We’ve got our guys. We love our team. And, yeah, best of luck to them.”
Cutler will continue to defy the tired stereotype of a “don’t caaaaaare” attitude. He’s explained to White how to maintain his speed throughout a pass route, keeping defenses honest and giving the Bears a deep threat. At training camp, Cutler and the team’s other veterans asked coaches for nighttime walk-throughs, to better understand the offense.
“We’ve seen leadership step (up), Alshon and Jay,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “The first time they’ve asked that they do walkthroughs at night, and we weren’t doing that stuff last year. It shows a little bit of growth there with the leadership part of it. And they’re buying into it that way.”
Cutler’s personality meshes well with Loggains — “It’s like Jay and Mini-Jay in the building,” Long said — after the latter spent one year at quarterbacks coach. Loggains joked he and his quarterback are more similar then he’d like to admit. His players think he and Cutler share an intelligence and competitiveness.
“They’re on a similar frequency,” Long said.
One that, this season, can operate without noisy interference from the outside.