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Jay Cutler won't fight back. Rip him, poke him, prod him, call him soft, call him a quitter. It doesn't matter. The Bears' quarterback shrugs.
"He just really doesn't care what other people think," says Cutler's high school coach, Bob Clayton. "That pisses people off."
Clayton was one of the first people to try to get inside Cutler's helmet. At Heritage Hills High in southern Indiana, Clayton teased his star quarterback: Come on, Cutler, this isn't the damn basketball program or the baseball program! Quit loafing!
"It bothered me, but I wasn't going to let him know," Cutler told SI last week. "I wasn't going to let him have the satisfaction."
Got that, America? He won't let you have the satisfaction either.
Cutler has been a target for fans, media and even fellow players since he stood on the sideline for most of the second half of Chicago's 21--14 loss to the Packers in the NFC title game. He didn't appear to talk to anybody, didn't get treatment, didn't even take his pads off. As third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie led the Bears on a late comeback, Cutler did not seem to be engaged at all. He looked like he was tired of waiting for the cable guy.
Before he left Soldier Field that day, Cutler had been engulfed by a social-media bonfire. And his harshest critics were fellow players.
On his Twitter feed Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett wrote, "If I'm on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT." Former Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks tweeted that "there is no medicine for a guy with no guts and heart," and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders wrote, "u must drag me off the field" in that situation.
Michael Vick had to kill innocent dogs to get the country to hate him. All Cutler did was stand still.
Actually, Cutler had a Grade II tear of the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee and couldn't plant and throw if the season depended on it—which, of course, it did. But nobody knew that at the time. The Bears were not exactly forthcoming with in-game injury reports, saying only that his return to the game was "questionable."