I listened to Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler speak Wednesday in a news conference and also in an appearance on ESPN 1000. For all of you pop culture nuts, Cutler confirmed he is once again engaged to Kristin Cavallari and had a humorous exchange of wedding ideas on "The Waddle & Silvy Show."
But to me, the takeaway from both appearances was Cutler working hard to temper expectations that he will play again this season. The Bears have expressed a level of optimism that Cutler either doesn't share or isn't willing to confirm so as to avoid unrealistic expectations.
A week after undergoing surgery that placed three screws and two pins in his fractured right thumb, Cutler acknowledged the possibility that he won't play again until the 2012 season.
"I've got to be smart about it obviously," he said. "I would want to play next week if they would let me. But I don't think that's going to be in the cards. It could be that I'm done for the season. I just have to be smart about it and realize there is a long-term picture here, but at the same time I want to be out there and I know that my teammates want me to be out there."
There are five weeks remaining in the regular season, and Cutler said he was given a post-surgery timeframe of three to 10 weeks to remove the pins. (The screws will remain in his thumb.) Cutler could conceivably play before the pins are removed, and he said he chose a surgeon who expressed confidence he could return quickly. But Cutler clearly doesn't want to raise expectations about his status.
"I don't want to say it," Cutler said on ESPN 1000. "I don't want to jinx it. I don't to get people excited. … I feel good about it, but you never know what's going to happen."
If he is indeed done for the year, the next big step in Cutler's career will be finding out whether he will have to learn a new offense next year or if the Bears will bring back offensive coordinator Mike Martz, whose contract is expiring. Speaking on ESPN 1000, Cutler echoed some of the thoughts we discussed last month on this topic. He didn't offer a glowing personal reflection of his time with Martz but made clear he prefers him over starting over.
"I don't want to learn a new offensive system, I know that," Cutler said. "I think we have a good thing going here. ...
"We're building something here," he added. "If you look at the offenses around the league that are really good -- Green Bay, the Patriots, the Saints -- there is consistency there. They've been in the same system. They've had the same offensive coordinator. They've had the same receivers, tight ends, guys around them that have grown up in the system.
"If you want to be an elite offense in this league, that's what you have to do. You can't keep shipping guys in and out. You can't keep doing different offensive coordinators left and right. It's hard on quarterbacks and it's hard on everyone to learn that kind of stuff."
I totally agree. Cutler was playing arguably the best football of his career when he was injured earlier this month. Martz had made his share of questionable decisions over the past two years, but what he has achieved with Cutler is undeniable and shouldn't be sacrificed if at all possible -- no matter when Cutler gets back on the field.