Charles Barkley rips Jay Cutler critics

Charles Barkley was at Soldier Field on Sunday for the NFC Championship Game, and he said he knew Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was going to get criticized for leaving the game in the third quarter with a knee injury.

But what caught Barkley by surprise was the criticism of other players around the league via Twitter.

"I was mad at the players, to be honest with you," Barkley said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I think it was inappropriate and wrong to question a guy's heart. Now reporters, they're going to do what they want to. They're entitled to their opinion. But as players, I don't think it's appropriate to question another guy's heart.

"That crosses the line, because you don't know. If you go back and start looking at all the stuff that's been said, and clearly one of the more vocal critics was Maurice Jones-Drew, and then you find out he missed the last two games with a bad knee. And he was really the first guy who crucified Jay. You have to be careful, because in the two most important games of the year, he sat out with a bad knee. And then it really makes him look like an idiot now."

Jones-Drew subsequently said he was just joking and was taken out of context.

"I just think it's inappropriate," Barkley said. "It's fair to criticize guys when they don't play well, but it's 100 percent unfair to criticize guys ... if a guy says he's hurt, you have to respect that."

Barkley did have one criticism for Cutler, who was seen sitting next to third-stringer Caleb Hanie, who came in after second-stringer Todd Collins struggled. The Bears lost 21-14 to the Green Bay Packers.

"I was very disappointed that he wasn't standing beside that young kid," Barkley said. "I was very disappointed he wasn't there trying to work with that young kid. There were a couple of shots of them on the sideline, with [Hanie] looking at pictures, and [Cutler] was just disengaged. That's a fair criticism."

Barkley was told Hanie said Cutler was offering advice and support.

"I don't think Caleb Hanie wanted to throw him under the bus," Barkley said. "If it had been me, I would have been in his ear the whole time. I would have been standing by him the whole time. Not just he said a couple of times he came and talked to him.

"I've been in that situation before with a rookie or whatever. I'm going to be in his ear the whole time. That's a legitimate criticism of Jay Cutler."