The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - INSIDE SLANT

Cutler feels rejuvenated preparing for 2014 Bears season

Both physically and mentally, quarterback Jay Cutler couldn't feel better about the approaching Chicago Bears season.

Armed with a new contract and knowledge of an offense he has had the rare luxury of running for a full season, Cutler said at minicamp this week he feels in the best position he's been since coming to Chicago in 2009.

"You're not guessing, you know where guys are going to be, you know what the calls are, you know why the call came in, you know what you want to get to if it is a problem," Cutler said about entering his second season in head coach Marc Trestman's offense. "We're going in that direction, but we're still trying to figure some stuff out and we had some areas last year we struggled in and we weren't perfect so we have to keep working and keep trying to get better."

Only twice before has Cutler had the same offensive system from one year to the next, initially in Denver and then in Chicago when he had Mike Martz as offensive coordinator in 2010-11.

Never has he had the type of weapons he has available after helping the Bears become the second-highest scoring team in the league and the No. 8 offense overall.

"We did OK last year, for the first year," he said. "We have the same guys we had last year, which is always good. Talent-wise it's hard to top our O-line and some of the guys we have on the outside and (running back) Matt Forte, who is hugely underrated.

"Talent-wise and being in the system two years and the way the guys work, all that adds up. Hopefully we can stay healthy and see where this thing goes."

Therein lies the problem, and it starts with Cutler. He hasn't played a full season since his first in Chicago in 2009.

"I was straight until I really got here for awhile and it was a hit parade back there," he said, referring to the beating he took behind a porous offensive line from 2009-12. "It takes its toll from time to time.

"I think with the offensive line we've got here, the guys are doing everything possible. Last year was last year. Kind of two freak injuries. I don't really foresee that happening again."

Cutler suffered injuries to his left groin and ankle last year and missed five games. He said Tuesday he began his strength and conditioning program earlier this year so he could, "get my whole left side back to even with my right side," and feels he has.

It's often been speculated his own habit of holding the ball longer led to some of the beatings he took when he was sacked 148 times in four years.

"It's two-fold," he said. "Once you start getting hit a lot you start taking your eyes off the secondary, you lose a lot of trust up front and it gets difficult to play quarterback that way.

"You look across the league and you see guys that are getting hit a lot, they're probably not going to be doing very well. The guys who stay pretty clean are in offenses year-in and year-out and get a feel for the guys, those guys are going to be the ones who are in the top of the league every year."

And Cutler has confidence he can stay clear of injury because the system lets him get rid of the football quicker. Another year in the system, and it's going to come out even faster. At least that's the design.

"Jay is incredibly smart football-wise," Trestman said. "He's incredibly smart, but very smart football-wise, obviously.