Cutler: “I learned a lot of things (last year).”

Jay Cutler is ready to put last year’s struggles behind him, but before he does he wants to make it clear that 2009 wasn’t all bad. At least he learned a couple of things while throwing a league-high 26 interceptions.

From the Chicago Tribune:

“It was a rough year,” he said. “I’m not going to say it wasn’t. I wouldn’t say it was all bad. I learned a lot of things. Had some success in Denver, and then we came here and hit a few speed bumps. But I think it made me a better player. … I haven’t lost any confidence in my abilities.

“You have to play within yourself, get back to some of those things that made you the player you were in the past, and not trying to force it. I think that’s kind of where I got in trouble last year … trying to make some plays, trying to get back in the ballgames, and trying to push the ball down field.”

I think part of the problem last year was that the Bears thought they were better than they really were. Jerry Angelo tried to use toothpaste to fill the holes along the offensive line and the move blew up in his face. Defensively, the Bears weren’t as good as they had been in previous years and when Brian Urlacher went down in Week 1, then things really started to fall apart.

When everyone expects a team to be good and it’s not, its star players start to press, which is what Cutler did. His offensive line didn’t give him a lot of protection, which in turn made Matt Forte useless and the receivers weren’t good enough to rise to the challenge and bail Cutler out. So what happened was Cutler tried to do too much and he usually paid the price for it.

Cutler may work wonders with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Quarterbacks usually don’t struggle to learn Martz’s system and tend to improve in their first year. But that doesn’t change the fact that Angelo still hasn’t fixed the problems on the offensive line, so it’s important that Cutler doesn’t fall back into the same bad habits that made him fail last year or else the Bears will be in trouble again.

It’s good to hear that Cutler hasn’t lost any confidence in his abilities, although confidence has never been a problem for him. He needs to trust in his teammates and in turn, his teammates need to step up and help take some of the pressure off his shoulders.

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Should the Falcons sign T.O.?

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posed the question of whether or not the Falcons should sign free agent wideout Terrell Owens.

Here’s my answer: Why is this even a question?

The Falcons’ receiving corps is somewhat a concern heading into the season. Roddy White is a stud, but Michael Jenkins has proven to be more of a blocker than a pass catcher and Harry Douglas is coming off major knee surgery. Behind them is the aging Brian Finneran, special teamer Eric Weams and fifth round pick Kerry Meier (who essentially is a younger Finneran in the making).

On the surface, it might make sense to throw T.O. in the mix. On paper, giving Matt Ryan White, T.O. and Tony Gonzalez to play with might make sense. Besides, the Falcons would only sign Owens to a one-year deal, so if it didn’t work they could move on after the year and not think twice about it.

But let’s not forget that the Falcons’ strength is actually running the ball with Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood (for the 11 plays he gets a year). Adding T.O. doesn’t make much sense given Douglas’ potential, Ryan’s familiarity with White and Gonzalez, and yes, even Jenkins’ blocking ability. (Fans like to rag on Jenkins for not being much of a receiver, but he’s by far their best blocker and that holds value for a team that often likes to set the tone with their ground game.)

While I applaud Ledbetter for trying to drum up conversation now that OTAs are underway, this topic should be put to rest immediately. T.O. won’t be a Falcon. It isn’t worth it for the team to sacrifice Douglas’ development in the offense and who knows what would happen if Ryan didn’t get Owens the ball enough. Atlanta just doesn’t need a potential distraction like that, especially with Ryan heading into his third year.

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Winslow undergoes fifth knee surgery

According to the Pewter Report, Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow was held out of the start of OTAs Monday after undergoing his fifth knee surgery in the last six years.

The report states that the knee surgery was a minor arthroscopic procedure, or a “clean up” of the knee. That said, this was Winslow has already had two knee operations since undergoing microfracture surgery in 2007. At 26 he may be able to recover without much problem, but how long will he be able to play after having all these surgeries? The body obviously breaks down with age, so this isn’t a good sign for the tight end’s long-term health.

The Bucs need a healthy Winslow heading into the season so young quarterback Josh Freeman has a primary weapon he can use in the middle of the field. If not, the team will have to count on rookie Arrelious Benn or a hodgepodge group of receivers in Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Mario Urrutia, Reggie Brown and Mark Bradley.

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Is Tim Tebow the next John Elway?

Denver Post columnist Woody Paige walked the line of comparing Broncos’ rookie quarterback Tim Tebow to legend John Elway in one of his recent articles, including this one:

“Elway could be Joe Namath with good knees, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He won’t be reserved a spot in the Hall of Fame just yet, but just wait.”

Critics charged then that Elway would not become a great pro quarterback, was a loser and an inaccurate thrower in college and wasn’t worth the money ($5 million over five years) or the waste of draft picks. His controversial stand, his hairstyle and even his teeth were disparaged, and it was said he couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t start in the league for several years.


The spectacle lasted for 16 seasons.

And this one:

When Elway reported for rookie camp in July, his every movement — well, almost every movement — was chronicled. “Media Stalk Each Of Elway’s Steps.” More press than players attended workouts in Greeley. Dan Reeves bubbled about Elway, calling him the best young quarterback he had ever seen. Elway, Reeves said, had the star-quality personality — an, if you will, “it” factor. One day at a country club “Ben Hogan walked in. Nobody had to tell us he was Hogan. Elway has the same thing, that charisma. I felt it the first time I ever saw him.”

Reeves said Elway could play right away (although the Broncos had a veteran incumbent). Elway started the opening game.

“Boy Scout Will Lead,” a headline declared.

Hmm. Any of that sound familiar?

It’s remarkable that people either love or hate Tebow (the football player – not the person). Listening to the way people talk about him, one would think that he’s either Hall of Fame bound or that he won’t even be able to tie his shoes before games. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between with him.

I’ve maintained all along that I thought it was stupid to trade three picks for Tebow in last month’s draft and I won’t sway from that opinion. I think he’s a massive project and I don’t see him getting many meaningful snaps under center this year unless the Broncos grow impatient. To think he’s going to start this year as a rookie seems far-fetched, especially if Denver doesn’t wind up trading Kyle Orton at some point before the season. But I’ve been wrong before (many times) and I’ll be wrong again, so who knows.

In terms of Tebow becoming the next Elway……………uh……………

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Will the Texans be forced to re-work Andre Johnson’s contract?

Wide receiver Andre Johnson skipped the start of the Texans’ organized team activities on Monday because he’s unhappy with his contract. With five years remaining on his current deal, he may have a tough time convincing Houston to up his pay grade.

Although Larry Fitzgerald certainly has a say in the discussion, Johnson is arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Yet his contract isn’t as lucrative as the one the Dolphins just gave Brandon Marshall or even the one the Cowboys signed the under-performing Roy Williams to a couple of years ago. So while he still has five years remaining on his current deal, there’s no question that Johnson is underpaid given his production value in the NFL.

The problem is that he doesn’t have much leverage. If he were to become a free agent at the end of the year, then the Texans would be more pressed to re-work his deal knowing that he could bolt once the season is over. But with five years remaining on his current contract, all he has is the threat of a holdout. Even though he’s their best player, the Texans could essentially say, “All right, you don’t want to play? Then you won’t get paid.”

Either way, this isn’t how the Texans wanted to kick off OTAs and holdouts can get awfully nasty between the team and the player. And if Johnson doesn’t show up for training camp, then the Texans really have a problem.

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