Ward, Rivers’ injuries add intrigue to “Cutlergate” in Chicago

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) fumbles the ball as Green Bay Packers Sam Shields (37) and Desmond Bishop (55) sack him for a 10-yard loss during the second quarter of their NFC Championship playoff game at Soldier Field in Chicago on January 23, 2011. UPI /Mark Cowan

In the AFC Championship Game two years ago, Steelers’ receiver Hines Ward suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee against the Ravens and while he briefly returned to the game, he was taken out again and didn’t return.

Sound familiar?

On Monday, the Chicago Sun Times reported that the knee injury Jay Cutler suffered in the NFC title game on Sunday is a Grade II MCL tear. The team announced that the injury was a “sprain,” but there’s still a tear that occurs in the knee. According to Sun Times’ writer Sean Jensen, the injury would usually sideline a player for 3-4 weeks.

Following the injury, Ward was able to play in the Super Bowl two weeks later and is often regarded as one of the most durable players in the NFL. Yet Cutler is a “sissy” for not returning to his game. If the injury was serious enough for Ward not to return, shouldn’t Cutler be given the benefit of the doubt?

As I wrote earlier today, it seems as though the people doing the criticizing flat out don’t like Cutler as a person. That’s not hard to understand seeing as how he has often rubbed teammates, opponents and members of the media the wrong way in the past. People aren’t willing to look at your side of things when you constantly exude a my-sh*t-don’t-stink attitude.

Of course, another factor that is fueling the Cutler-is-a-pansy side is that Philip Rivers tore his ACL the week before the 2008 AFC title game and had a cleanup procedure done just so he could play. So, as the thinking goes, if Rivers was able to play one week after having ACL surgery, why couldn’t Cutler gut out a MCL sprain for 28 more minutes?

Granted, everyone has a different threshold for pain and again, if Ward couldn’t play on his sprain than maybe people should cut Cutler some slack. Athletes know their own bodies and know whether or not they can continue to play following an injury. I think the biggest issue is that Cutler was so nonchalant on the sidelines and the Bears never announced during the game that he was out. The only reason television networks employ sideline reporters is so that they can fill viewers in on injuries, yet nobody said that Cutler was out. Had the Bears made an official announcement saying Cutler was unable to return, maybe people would be less critical.

But there he was, standing up, sitting on the bench or riding the bike. None of those things give the perception that he couldn’t continue playing.

When you factor in Ward and Rivers’ injuries, Cutler’s attitude, the general lack of understanding of what went on after Cutler got hurt and the fact that it was the NFC title game, this is the perfect storm that has brewed. It’s quite interesting, actually. I keep waiting for there to be a smoking gun that emerges and for some unnamed source to say Cutler could have gone back in.

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