The difference, Urlacher said, is he wasn’t subjected to widespread -- and in his opinion -- unwarranted criticism.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Urlacher said Thursday during an interview with NFL Total Access on the NFL Network. “It was bad timing with the injury, and everyone says he was pouting on the sideline. When I broke my wrist two years ago, I was on the sideline pouting too. No one said anything about that. It was a regular season game, but you’re not happy to be out of the game anytime you get hurt. You’re pissed off and don’t want to be on the sideline, but you can’t change it. That’s the way it is. But it was undeserved all of the bad media he got. Jay’s a tough guy. He takes a lot of hits, gets up, [and] goes back every play and never complains about it.”
Urlacher expects the perception of Cutler to change in 2011 with the quarterback at the controls for his second year in the system of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. In fact, Urlacher considers Cutler to be “a big deal out there.”
“He had a good season last year. He got hurt the last game there, got a lot of people jumping on him trying to get after him. But he got hurt,” Urlacher said. “That’s what it came down to and he’s back. He looks great. He’s throwing the ball around great in training camp, had a good game against the Giants. We’re protecting him, which is a big deal for a quarterback to get protection [because] all these guys can pick you apart.”
Despite the positive vibes concerning Cutler, the 12th-year veteran still feels the sting from the loss to the Packers in the NFC title game, in part, he said, because of the long layoff induced by the NFL lockout.
Urlacher hasn’t backed off his assertion that the Bears are the best team in the NFC, and doesn’t plan to, he said.
“If you don’t believe that, there is no reason to come to work every day. Everyone on our team believes that,” Urlacher said. “We’re all 0-0 right now before the regular season starts, so there is no reason not to think that.”
Urlacher’s bravado doesn’t diminish the reality of the challenge the team faces in taking on the Falcons, Saints and Packers over the first three weeks of the season. Urlacher hopes those teams feel the same way about facing the Bears “because we don’t think we’re a cakewalk, either.”
As for himself, Urlacher admits that, athletically, he’s no longer the same player; but makes up for it with intelligence developed throughout his tenure in the NFL.
“Obviously, the longer you play, the smarter you get. That’s kind of caught up and taken over what I lack physically now,” Urlacher said. “I’m not slow or as bad as people think, but just not quite the same as I was when I was 22-, 23-years old.”