BBAO: The never-ending (Jay Cutler) story

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Most of us keep waiting for the Jay Cutler story to blow over. Thursday's news event -- TMZ.com shot video of him walking and shopping with his girlfriend -- suggested we could be in for the long haul.

Two ESPN.com national columnists weighed in during the past 24 hours.

Gene Wojciechowski writes that Cutler has become a sympathetic figure: "But in four bizarre days, Cutler has gone from aloof, underachieving quarterback to accused quitter to owner of a partially torn MCL to -- wait for it -- heroic victim of a post-NFC Championship Game smear campaign."

Michael Wilbon, meanwhile, is trying to figure out exactly how much staying power this story will have: "Maybe, on the other hand, the Bears themselves are just fine with Cutler's personality, and they, like many of us, think he can come back on a sound knee after an offseason of work on footwork/fundamentals and take them one step further, which would likely stop the questions about his toughness and his personality. But if he doesn't, and if members of his own fraternity continue to publicly question his courage and whether he'll do whatever necessary to win, whether or not Bears fans think it's warranted, the referendum on Cutler and his worthiness will be up for discussion long after this Super Bowl is over."

Honestly, I think the next true step is hearing from Cutler. He spoke briefly after Sunday's game but issued a quick no comment when informed that other NFL players were criticizing his early departure. But how Cutler handles the controversy, both publicly and privately, will play the biggest role in determining its long-term direction.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Cutler would have been better off flopping on the field in pain, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.

  • Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was fined $10,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

  • The center for the Packers' Super Bowl XLV opponent, Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has a fractured bone in his left foot in addition to a high ankle sprain, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

  • John Branch of The New York Times visits the Pittsburgh suburb that Packers coach Mike McCarthy grew up in.

  • Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf on the job that current general manager Ted Thompson has done, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "When you look at what you have to do to be successful, just look at what Ted did when he came in there. He built that team up."

  • McCarthy wanted to give Packers players as much time to rest this week as he could, writes Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

  • Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com reviews the Packers' 2009 matchup with the Steelers.

  • Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh played his entire rookie season with the shoulder injury that eventually required surgery, according to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune.

  • Tom Pelissero of ESPN1500.com grades the Minnesota Vikings' special teams, coaching and personnel for the 2010 season.

  • Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on middle linebacker E.J. Henderson making the Pro Bowl, via the Star Tribune: "After the injury he suffered in 2009 left many wondering if his career was over, to come back and play at such a high level all season and be named to the Pro Bowl caps off a remarkable season for an outstanding player and person."