Cutler mixes optimism, realism over offense

Jay Cutler will be in his fourth offensive system in four years with the Bears in 2013. David Banks/USA TODAY Sports

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler called the current incarnation of the team "the most competitive locker room I've been in talent-wise, speed-wise," but he tempered 2013 expectations for the new offense, admitting "it's hard to go out there (in) Year 1 and blow the doors off."

The Bears completed the first session of a three-day mandatory minicamp Tuesday, with new coach Marc Trestman cutting practice short approximately 20 minutes in part because of the heat, and his desire to get maximum effort from the players during the abbreviated timeframe. Cutler believes the offense is "on pace" for the regular-season opener, but acknowledged "it takes time" to develop.

"It's every day of just trying to get better, and trying to learn the offense so that it's less thinking and more just reacting out there," Cutler said. "The guys are doing a great job out there of taking it home with them, and really studying it because with the amount of time we're allowed out here, you can't really get in as much as you want to get in. We're gonna see where we're at when we leave training camp, but right now I think we're on pace."

Set to execute his fourth offensive scheme since joining the Bears in 2009, Cutler hinted that he might have more weapons at his disposal now than ever on offense. The Bears upgraded the offensive line by adding free agent left tackle Jermon Bushrod and drafting guard Kyle Long. The club also added a weapon in the passing game with tight end Martellus Bennett to play alongside Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

"I do know that this is the most competitive locker room I've ever been in talent-wise, speed-wise," Cutler said. "We've got some guys in there that can really play football, and we've got a lot of them, which is a good thing. So it's gonna be tough when it comes down to cuts to see exactly how it shakes out."

Cutler mentioned "there are similarities and there's differences," between Trestman's offense and other systems he's run in the past, but he pointed out the understanding of quarterbacks and protection schemes of the new coach and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer as positives.

"Kromer and everyone else involved, and Marc, have a great understanding of how to get guys open, how to protect the football, how to open up gaps in the run game," Cutler said. "(Trestman has) got a lot of ex-quarterbacks that have talked him up, and preached very good about him; and rightfully so. He does a great job. I really enjoy working with him. He understands quarterbacks. He understands how to protect quarterbacks. He's able to get into your mind and see what you're seeing, and think what you're thinking, and give you the best possible solutions.

"He's not gonna send you out there with plays that aren't gonna work or plays that are gonna work against some defenses, but not others. He's gonna give you a lot of answers, but make sure it's simple enough so that everyone else can understand."

How quickly Cutler and his teammates master the system will play a major role in determining the team's overall success in 2013. But the quarterback shied from bold proclamations because at this point, the team is "just trying to learn the basics of the offense." After this week's minicamp, which ends on Thursday, the Bears won't spend significant time as a team sharpening up on the intricacies of the system on the field. That won't take place again until training camp at Bourbonnais.

"Really, without even getting into it, it's a three-year process to learn an offense," Cutler said. "It just is what it is. It's hard to go out there Year 1 and blow the doors off. But we're gonna do the best we can with the time allowed, and we'll see where we're at."

Given that Cutler's contract expires after the 2013 season, there's a chance he might not receive the three years he believes is required to learn an offense.

Trestman said Cutler is off to a promising start, though.

"The meetings have gone very smoothly. There's intelligent interchange between himself, (quarterbacks coach) Matt (Cavanaugh), myself, the other quarterbacks. I love our meeting room," Trestman said. "We're getting a lot done quickly. Jay's been in so many different offenses and I'm totally impressed at how he's handled new language, new ways to look at things. This is a little bit different for him but I think he's handling it extremely well."

Does Trestman see Cutler producing the type of success he's experienced with quarterbacks he's worked with in the past such as Rich Gannon, Steve Young, and Anthony Cavillo most recently in the Canadian League?

"Most of the quarterbacks, I'm just lucky to have worked with them. I think I'm really lucky to be working with Jay," Trestman said. "He's putting out every day. His work ethic is unparalleled, as good as any I've ever been around. His detail in the offense is as good as anybody I've been around. He's doing all the right things, he's working at his craft, and it's not easy when you're starting over one more time. I applaud him. I think the team feels that when he gets into the huddle he's in control, as our other quarterbacks have done as well."

During the session on Tuesday, Trestman said the Bears installed "a midseason game plan," which gave the team "a lot of diversity to what we were doing," he said.

In workouts open to the media, the defense seems to have enjoyed the upper hand during practices, which isn't uncommon at this time of the offseason. Trestman, however, mentioned that "what you haven't seen is the ebb and flow of competition that's gone on over the last month because you haven't been here every day."

"There's been days where the defense has won, and there's been days where the offense has won," Trestman said. "At the end of the day, there's very good cooperative practicing. We think we're headed in the right direction with what we're doing."