As he prepares to face the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers on Sunday at Soldier Field, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is a lot more concerned with the opinion of his teammates than that of former NFL coaches Jim Mora and Mike Martz, who were critical of his postgame demeanor following last Sunday night's loss to the Packers.
Cutler said he hadn't heard the criticism firsthand but had been briefed on it.
"We can't worry about that," Cutler said. "I can't worry about that. I just worry about the guys in the locker room and getting better. I'm worried about this offense, this team and how we're playing on a week-in, week-out basis. We're worried about the Steelers right now."
Monday night on "The Head Coaches” on NFL Network, Mora said: "When I saw that postgame press conference ... I thought he looked completely immature. He acted like he didn't even care. I just didn't think he was very professional, very accountable."
Martz added: "He just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that he represents a great head coach and the rest of those players on that team. ... Somebody needs to talk to him."
But Cutler clearly has the backing of his teammates and Bears coaches.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner reacted angrily to the comments of Martz and Mora, especially those questioning Cutler's leadership.
"He's as good a leader as I've ever been around," Turner said. "I could not be happier, and every guy in that locker room and everybody upstairs could not be happier with him and his demeanor and his leadership and the intangibles that he brings to the table. I don't care who said it and how much football they know and everything else. It's totally, totally off base.
"I know what coaches and players here feel. People who have been in that locker room with him, have been in the huddle with him, have been in meetings with him, [they] know what kind of leader he is. [They] know what he brings to the table. I've heard the receivers say he's as good a leader that we've had, and I've never heard guys say stuff like that. It's upsetting to hear that. If you want to talk about interceptions, talk about his play, that's one thing. But to talk about that when you don't know is totally, totally off base."
Teammates back Turner's assessment of Cutler and say they aren't worried about what outsiders think of their quarterback.
"I don't know what the perception is, but the reality of it is that he's great," tight end Greg Olsen said. "He has a lot of confidence in himself and what we're trying to do. But during the game he's calm, and he's in total control of what we're trying to do."
Asked if he was confident that Cutler would bounce back from Sunday's four-interception nightmare, Olsen said: "No one around here is worried at all about Jay."
Bears coach Lovie Smith, who was the defensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams when Martz was the head coach, also defended his quarterback.
"First off you have to look at the setting a little bit," Smith said. "We had just come off of a tough loss to one of our rivals. I looked at Jay's comments that he made, and [the reaction from Mora and Martz] is a little disappointing especially coming from a couple of former coaches.
QB Jay Cutler
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel
"Everyone that has been around him, his teammates, former coaches, they know what type of player he is, what type of person he is. He represents our organization well. We're glad he is on our football team, but at the same time we cannot be concerned about criticism coming from the outside. Right now it's easy to dog-pile us because we didn't play well. But how you get rid of things like that is to play well. That's why we're anxious to play Pittsburgh this week and go from there."
Smith said he has not spoken to Martz about his comments on Cutler.
"I'm trying to get ready for Pittsburgh," Smith said. "I'm talking to my wife, a little bit, right now. Everyone else is a little bit lower on my list."
Cutler said he wasn't surprised at how closely he has been scrutinized on and off the field since coming to the Bears.
"You expect it," he said, "and when you lose that stuff gets magnified even more. If we win that ballgame and I play a little bit better, it's going to be a lot better outcome. I'm sure some of the columns are going to be a little more positive. When you throw picks, you're going to get criticized, you're going to get picked apart a little bit, and that's as expected."
NEWS AND NOTES
With injuries taking their toll, the Bears will be counting heavily on several players to step up in increased roles.
Besides Hunter Hillenmeyer filling in at middle linebacker for Brian Urlacher (wrist), who is out for the season, Nick Roach replaces Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) at strong-side linebacker. Kellen Davis takes over for Desmond Clark (back) as the No. 2 tight end, a position crucial in the Bears' scheme considering how frequently they use a second tight end in tandem with the starter Olsen.
Nickel back Danieal Manning (back) and defensive end Mark Anderson (toe) are questionable at best after not practicing Wednesday, and backup cornerback Trumaine McBride (knee) is out. …
The transition from backup to starter should be seamless for Roach, who moved past Hillenmeyer to earn nine starts on the strong side last year but was hobbled by a knee injury in the preseason and beaten out by Tinoisamoa, who is out with a sprained knee.
"Pisa is a good player," Roach said. "To have somebody like that on the defense, I was happy that he would add that type of skill level. I didn't take it personal because I was hurt, and the tables turn quickly in this game."
Now the Bears will turn back to Roach, who played most of Sunday's game after Tinoisamoa was hurt on the second play.
"Pisa went out early," Smith said. "Nick Roach came in and played well." …
Davis was drafted in the fifth round in 2008 out of Michigan State, he looked like a steal based on his rare size-speed combination and athleticism. The 6-7, 262-pound Davis caught 32 passes for 513 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, while also getting two sacks tinkering at defensive end.
But his contributions last season were limited to special teams, since Clark and Olsen each played all 16 games.
"I would have been a lot more frustrated had there not been two good players ahead of me," Davis said.
Last year Olsen and Clark each had more than 40 catches, a role much more familiar and appealing to Davis.
"It's what I've done all through college," said Davis, who did not catch a pass as a rookie. "I hadn't played special teams really at all until I got to the NFL. For me, last year was more of a role switch than this. This is going back to what I'm used to and what I feel comfortable doing." …
The last time Urlacher missed a start, back in 2004, when he sat out seven games with three separate injuries, the Bears went 0-7.
But there was a big difference between that 5-11 team and this team, according to Clark.
"We sucked then, that's all," Clark said. "In '04, we weren't as good of a team as we are right now. We have a far better team. At linebacker, we probably have more depth there than any other position. I think we have enough qualified guys that can come in and step up and play that position well." …
What is commonly referred to as "the worst group of wide receivers in the NFL" accounted for 238 of the Bears' 277 receiving yards in the opener. The wide receivers were not the problem against the Packers, even though Earl Bennett needs to do a better job of getting on the same page with Cutler. But part of the blame for that goes to Cutler, too. He threw behind his receivers more in the Packers game than he had in all of the preseason combined.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Hopefully we can soften the blow of losing Brian, but a player like that you can't replace." – Bears DE Alex Brown on Brian Urlacher's season-ending injury.
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