BOURBONNAIS, Il. -- Jay Cutler beat everyone to training camp, reporting Tuesday before any of his Chicago Bears teammates, the club's support staff, or even the coaching staff stepped foot on the campus at Olivet Nazarene University.
Having dealt for months with disappointment from the team losing the NFC title game and the uncertainty of the NFL lockout, Cutler also endured critics concerning his toughness, while the tabloids documented seemingly every facet of his engagement, and subsequent breakup, with reality TV star Kristin Cavallari.
So Cutler needed to get away. He needed to get back to work.
"I'm just gonna submerse myself in football and move on from there," Cutler said Friday from Bears training camp. "I'm still not over it. It's still ... I hate to think about it, and I hope the rest of the guys feel the same way. I hope we have a little chip on our shoulder going into this year because we were close. But we weren't close enough."
That's why Cutler made it a point this offseason to organize informal workouts. It likely played a role in Cutler's decision to report to camp before everyone else, underscored by why the next step of his development in Mike Martz's offense looms so largely.
Asked whether he'd do anything differently for the upcoming season learned from past experiences, Cutler said he plans to ramp up the cerebral element of his game by trying to think like his offensive coordinator.
"I'm gonna be with Mike as much as possible and just try to get in his head with this offense," Cutler said. "Last year was a huge learning curve. You're just trying to battle out there and do the best you can. But this year, knowing the offense, just getting into the little details of Mike's head, of what he's thinking, that's kind of my aim right now."
Will Cutler hit his mark?
It's unknown at this point, but he's hoping the team puts together the ideal blend of personnel and game planning to make it easier for the offense, which was wildly inconsistent in 2010. Cutler admitted the "defense carried us all year," adding the unit "had enough to make it happen."
"Offensively we've got to get a lot better. We've got to catch up to them," Cutler said. "Mike [Martz is] gonna find a way for us. He game-plans so well. He calls plays so well that whatever pieces we have, we're gonna make it work. We've got a good group. The receiver room (which now includes Roy Williams and Sam Hurd) is probably as strong as it's been here since I've been here and probably the last five years. I'm sure they're not done signing guys upstairs. We're gonna get some more guys, and we'll see what happens. I play quarterback. They make the decisions."
Yet Cutler's decision to show up for camp first just might turn out to be a fitting first step in this quarterback's development into a leader.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.