NEW ORLEANS – Bears coach Lovie Smith may have concerns at several positions but starting quarterback isn’t among them.
On Tuesday morning, during a breakfast at the NFL owners meeting, Smith reiterated his belief in quarterback Jay Cutler’s talent and toughness.
“When I’m worrying about our football team, quarterback isn’t one of the positions that I’m spending a whole lot [on],” Smith said. “I feel pretty good about the play we’re going to get at that position.”
Smith addressed all the attention Cutler endured, after he left the NFC title game early in the third quarter with a Grade II MCL tear. On Twitter, during the game, other current NFL players called Cutler out and others later criticized the team’s handling of the entire situation, including the fact that the Bears didn’t rule him out in the third quarter, when he didn’t return.
“It’s a championship game, What should be your priority?” Smith said.
When a reporter said, “Winning,” Smith said, “Yeah, and not worrying about what information you all [reporters] are getting.
“It’s about our football team.”
Asked about questions on whether the club manufactured the injury or that it wasn’t serious enough to sideline Cutler, Smith said, “That’s an insult, almost to the point where I’m tired of talking about.
“There’s nothing to the story. For people to search for stuff like that; shame on them, who is even trying to do that. The people that know Jay, know us, for them to even try to accuse us of something like that is…”
Smith didn’t finish his thought, although it was clear the point he was making.
The club followed the usual protocol for handling an injured player, Smith said, with Cutler undergoing evaluation during half time.
“At the time, though, for me personally, I didn’t know he would be able to come back,” Smith said. “So when we came out there right away, you saw we were getting Todd [Collins] ready.
“To me the story should have been, how tough a player Jay Cutler really is. He was hurt, but he just wouldn’t take that. He still tried to go back out there and help his team win.”
Smith then questioned Fox, which broadcast the NFC title game, for its presentation of Cutler after the injury.
“To me, for the network, to choose those pictures, it’s wrong too,” Smith said. “On the sideline, you can portray a player whatever way you like. You can look at any player that’s injured, and you can pick a snap shot of him and he’s not going to be [excited or animated].”
He then pointed to the Super Bowl and Packers’ players Donald Driver and Charles Woodson, who didn’t finish the game.
“[Woodson] walked off, and he was standing on the sideline,” Smiths aid. “Donald Driver walked off, and he stood on the sideline. But we’re not questioning them. I never question them. Totally off base for that to happen.”
Smith said he talked to Cutler before his charitable trip to Kenya.
“His spirits are high, he’s in a good mood, and he’s excited about everything,” Smith said.
And as far as any concerns about Cutler’s mechanics, Smith said they’re overblown.
“Everybody is going to be working on fundamentals. Jay doesn’t need to work on it anymore than anyone else does. But that’s what you do in the offseason,” Smith said.
“Jay has the best quarterback tutor in the game working with him, in Mike Martz, and Shane Day. So I feel pretty good about that.”