After gimpy Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left in the third quarter of Chicago's 21-14 loss to Green Bay on Sunday, the blogosphere buzzed, NFL players Tweeted and the talking heads of the national media did their thing. The pre-diagnosis consensus: Cutler, who suffered a knee injury in the second quarter, was a coward and a quitter for not returning to the NFC championship game.
On Monday afternoon, Bears coach Lovie Smith revealed that Cutler had an MCL sprain, an injury that would have put Cutler's status in doubt had the Bears advanced to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, a Chicago newspaper has reported that it is an MCL tear. Either way, the injury would have been tough to play through.
That loud beeping noise you will be hearing is an 18-wheeler full of pigskin pundits backing away from their original statements, ones made without waiting to find out what was wrong with Cutler.
It would be hypocritical of me to bash these folks for rushing judgment (as they keep pointing out while attempting to defense themselves, that's the nature of our business). But as a rule, when a player is injured, I give them the benefit of the doubt until I know all the details. You would figure Cutler's peers would have done the same, but they hammered the Bears quarterback on Sunday.
This whole controversy reeks of hypocrisy. You've got a bunch of current and former players bashing Cutler for not playing on one leg. But once the season is over, you will hear an outcry from the same players about safety concerns as owners push for an 18-game regular season.
Are they cowards and quitters for not wanting to play 18 games? Nah, those guys are warriors because they would have played through the pain if they were Cutler -- at least they said that Sunday.
But now that we know the extent of Cutler's injury, we will see a lot of backpedaling. Former Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce managed to keep a straight face on "SportsCenter" when he said the backlash was because of Cutler's body language and demeanor on the sidelines and not because he didn't cowboy up and try to play with a significant knee injury in the biggest game of his career.
So Cutler was bummed out because he got knocked out of the NFC title game and let it show on the sidelines? Does that make him a good leader? No. But it doesn't make him a coward or a quitter, either.