LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Jay Cutler's teammates came to his defense at Halas Hall Monday, as the quarterback continued to have his toughness questioned by some league observers, including former and current NFL players.
"I'll just tell you this — one thing I know about Jay Cutler is he's tough," said QB Caleb Hanie, who helped spark the offense after replacing backup QB Todd Collins on Sunday. "And another I know about him is he's going to stand up for his teammates and he doesn't want to let his teammates down. If he could've been on the field and been productive at all for the team, he would have done it."
Cutler tried to play after injuring his knee late in the second quarter of Sunday's NFC championship game, but the team decided to sit him after the first offensive series of the third quarter. An MRI revealed Monday that Cutler had suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the knee. Reports indicate it was a grade-2 sprain, which usually takes 3-4 weeks to recover from.
"He obviously was in a ton of pain where he couldn't handle it enough to help out the team, so he felt like he might have been hurting the team, so he had to take a backseat," Hanie said.
Cutler was at Halas Hall for a team meeting Monday, but he didn't address the media. A teammate and friend of Cutler's, TE Greg Olsen, said Cutler's toughness is one of the last things anyone should question.
"I think it's insane," he said. "I think anyone who has ever watched us, that would probably be the last thing anyone would ever question. He's taken hits. He doesn't slide. He runs almost to the point where sometimes we have to tell him 'Hey, you're still a quarterback. We need you back there.' But that's just his mentality. He's a football player.
"For guys, especially players around the league, to take those shots at him, I just think it's ridiculous. You're going to take a shot at a quarterback who is leading his team into the NFC title game from guys who aren't even in the playoffs, haven't made the playoffs in their whole career, and they're going to question him?"
DT Tommie Harris admitted that it took awhile for some Bears players to warm up to Cutler after he was traded from the Broncos before the 2009 season, but he said Cutler has earned his trust and that he's one of his favorite teammates.
Harris doesn't expect that the criticism will bother Cutler much going forward.
"That rolls right off his back," Harris said. "It probably bothered him yesterday, but I don't think that will bother Jay at all, and it shouldn't. Nobody can question your toughness and all of that stuff. We know what Jay means to us and who he is as a person."