There is something to be said about what your peers say about you. When it comes to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, it’s pretty clear how highly his toughness is regarded.
“He played tough today, especially after coming back from that hit,” Lions linebacker Justin Durant said. “It seemed like it was a pretty tough hit that probably hurt him. He showed courage and came back in and played.”
The hit Durant mentions of course came in the second quarter from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Cutler’s toughness was displayed when he returned to the field to start the second half after the rib injury temporarily knocked him out of the game before halftime.
“Nobody ever said he wasn’t tough,” Lions defensive end Cliff Avril said. “He has to be a tough guy to be starting in the NFL. He did show some toughness when he did go down and came back. Nobody ever questioned his toughness.”
The compliments didn’t stop with just the opposing team. Bears head coach Lovie Smith took it a step further.
“It’s what he is,” Smith said. “He’s a tough guy. That’s what you should have as your Chicago Bear quarterback and he does it time after time. He was in some pain, but he fought through it.”
Maybe that’s just it. Cutler wasn’t just physically tough in Monday night’s win over the Lions, but he is tough to the core, from the moment his feet hit the floor in the morning, to the time his head hits the pillow at night. He isn’t warm and fuzzy all of the time, but that’s part of his toughness.
Think of the toughest people you know. Most of them are stern and sometimes abrasive. But, that’s part of what keeps them strong both mentally and physically. They may not always say the right things or be the most understanding in certain situations, but they are usually the most loyal individuals in your life and often times get the most out of you in the end.
“He’s tough,” Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. “Being around him, that’s what I see on a daily basis.”
Marshall and Cutler were both drafted by Denver in 2006 and have since been reunited in Chicago. So I think it’s pretty safe to say Marshall understands Cutler pretty well. Just like wide receiver Earl Bennett, who has played with Cutler the last few seasons with the Bears and was his teammate at Vanderbilt.
“He’s a competitor,” Bennett said. “He’s one of those guys that no matter how beat up he is, he wants to get back in there and help us win the game.”
When Cutler went down the entire stadium fell silent. When he got up the crowd was relieved, but still cautiously optimistic about his return. Backup quarterback Jason Campbell took over for the final minutes of the first half and then everyone wondered if Cutler would be back in the game, or be out a few weeks. Some even feared the worst, a season-ending injury.
When the Bears players made their way back out onto the field after halftime someone was missing. Cutler was not with his teammates on the sideline and that’s when many started assuming bad news was surely to follow. Then in one brief moment his figure emerged from the tunnel and the Soldier Field crowd erupted. A few minutes later he returned to action and helped ensure his team got the win and moved to 5-1 on the season.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher explains what it was like during the time of unknown.
"Stressful," Urlacher said. "He's tough, man. It looked like he was in pain. We all held our breath a little bit until he came back out there. I'm glad he's okay and finished the game."
When Urlacher says someone is tough, they are tough. Which is why it's not out of the question to say Cutler may be the toughest quarterback in the NFL. He's 10-1 in his last 11 starts and seems committed to the game more than ever before.
He took a beating by opposing pass rushers during the Mike Martz era. He has received criticism for shoving offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb during a Week 2 loss in Green Bay. Since then Webb has been a much-improved player. A few weeks later in Dallas Cutler got grief for walking away from offensive coordinator Mike Tice. The two were seen fist pounding the next week in Jacksonville and now the Bears have the third best record in the NFL and are sitting all alone in first place of the NFC North.
The time for bashing the starting quarterback in Chicago may be coming to an end. The hard-working people of the Windy City now have a signal caller they can relate to. He's not perfect, but nobody is. He's not prolific, but with an elite defense in place he doesn't have to be.
Cutler had his 2010 season ended by a knee injury against the Packers in the NFC Championship. Last season was cut short by a broken thumb in a Week 11 win over the San Diego Chargers. It's pretty simple. Cutler knows the Bears have the talent to win the Super Bowl this season and he's showing they may have the toughness to get them there too.