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Q&A: One-on-one with quarterback Jay Cutler
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Jay Cutler looks on against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter of the Bears' 27-17 victory in an NFL preseason football game in Denver.


Associated Press

Aug. 15, 2009e photo ofJay Cutler during a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.


Associated Press

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Published: 9/5/2009 2:24 PM | Updated: 9/5/2009 10:26 PM

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With the preseason behind him and his first Bears-Packers game just a week away, it isn't easy to get Jay Cutler to put down the playbook and sit still for a few minutes.

The Pro Bowl quarterback, however, did talk recently with Bears beat writer Bob LeGere, discussing a variety of topics, from his well-publicized separation with the Denver Broncos to how he has handled expectations in a new city.

Cutler talked about his game, his arm, his new team, his coaches and his work with diabetic children.

Q. Has all the attention you've received since the trade been a distraction?

A. It's not a distraction. That's just part of the job. The team here prepared me for it. They kind of gave me a clue of what was going to happen. It's made this team excited.

I think the city is excited, and everyone's ready to go. There's a lot of energy in this building; guys are eager to get out there and practice and play, so I think it's been a good thing.

Q. How are you dealing with the over-the-top expectations that already have the Bears in the Super Bowl?

A. There's going to be ups and downs this year. We're going to drop some games. We're going to go through some injuries, when we're going to have to find guys throughout the season that can play. We can't let (expectations) worry us.

I think every team in the NFL thinks they're going to go to the Super Bowl this year - at least every city does. It's part of the game. Everyone gets excited before the season.

We just have to stay on an even tone and realize that the season is 16 games and September and October is not when you make it to the playoffs or win the Super Bowl.

It's November and December. It's those last eight games when we really have to come together as a team and get it clicking.

Q. How are you able to handle pressure so well like going back to face a hostile crowd in Denver last week, even though it was just a preseason game?

A. I think it was good for this team. It was a dress rehearsal for Green Bay. You just kind of stay on task and pay attention to what you're doing. I thought the guys handled it really well.

It's one of the loudest stadiums we're probably going to be in all year, especially with all the boos. You just can't let it bother you because as soon as you let that creep in it's going to take the focus off the other things that are more important.

Q. People always fixate on your arm strength, but does that diminish your other skills?

A. It's probably one of the first things people see, anybody that has a pretty big arm, like (Brett) Favre. (Tom) Brady has a really strong arm, so does (Ben) Roethlisberger. You see the pop and the zip on it, so that's kind of a little bit of your "wow" factor, but that doesn't make a good quarterback in this league by any means.

Q. Have you played against anybody in the NFL that has a stronger arm?

A. JaMarcus Russell has a cannon. Favre had a cannon whenever I played against him. When he was in Green Bay two years ago he could still sling it. Brady's got a cannon, too. There's definitely some guys out there that can throw the ball real hard.

Q. Did you say last year that you had a better arm than John Elway?

A. I'm not gonna get into it.

Q. Other than arm strength, what other factors have contributed to your success?

A. Accuracy is probably the biggest key in this league. If you can't put the ball on the right shoulder or put it in a tight spot, you're definitely not going to make it. If balls are sailing on you, if you're missing a lot of third downs, well, you'll be out of this league pretty quick.

Q. How important at quarterback is it to be a student of the game?

A. You have to learn from your mistakes. That's why we watch every practice and every game, break everything down and watch everyone else in the league and see what they're doing because the game's forever changing.

It's new defenses, new systems, new offenses are popping up all the time, so if you're not learning from it and learning from your own mistakes, people are going to catch up with you pretty quick.

Q. You played shortstop in high school. Why weren't you a pitcher?

A. I didn't want to mess up my arm.

Q. Did they want you to pitch?

A. Yeah, but I quit pitching my freshman year. I would play baseball all summer until two weeks before football season, then I'd jump right into football. I didn't want to keep pitching and mess up my arm for football.

Q. What kind of basketball player were you?

A. I'm good. I was a 2 (shooting guard) or a 3 (small forward). I averaged over 20 my last two years, 18 I think my sophomore year. I could play a little bit.

Q. How old were you when you first noticed you were a better athlete than most of the kids you were playing against?

A. When I was growing up, it always seemed like games moved slower for me than everyone else - football, basketball and baseball. Everything happened at a slower pace for me. I could see things before most kids could, so it happened pretty early.

Q. What would you say is your greatest athletic accomplishment, or what achievement are you most proud of?

A. I don't think I'm to that point yet to label something like that. Not yet.

Q. It has been written that one of your problems with (new Denver coach) Josh McDaniels was a lack of loyalty? Is that accurate?

A. I don't want to get into that either.

Q. Is loyalty important in football?

A. You have to have a respect factor for your coaches and a trust factor. They trust you to make the right decisions, and you trust them to put you in the right spots and give you the right plays.

Yeah, I think as a quarterback, when they want you to be one of the leaders of the team, there definitely has to be some sort of trust and loyalty there.

Q. Does it have to be a two-way street?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Have you achieved that here yet, or is that a work in progress?

A. We're well on our way. I think me and (offensive coordinator) Ron (Turner) have a great relationship so far. I think me and Lovie have a great relationship, and it goes both ways. I respect them 100 percent, and I think they do the same.

Q. Were you just showing off at the NFL Combine when you did 27 reps (at 225 pounds) on the bench press?

A. I think I only did like 24. There weren't many quarterbacks that did it, and it was one of my strengths, so I thought, "Why not?"

Q. Can you still do 24 reps?

A. I could not do 24 reps. I might be able to squeeze out 18 if I had to. I did it a lot at college, but off-season's kind of the time for that. Once the season starts it's more just maintenance stuff. I don't really lift that hard like that anymore.

Q. In the off-season you spent time visiting kids with diabetes at various hospitals. What do you talk to them about and what do they ask you?

A. I just answer their questions. I tell them my story.

We went to Dallas, New York, Indy, Nashville and here in Chicago, so we kind of bounced around the country to different hospitals. It's mostly kids under 12 or under 15, sometimes as young as 2 or 3.

It's good for them to associate with somebody that they've seen on TV that has diabetes as well and to realize that it doesn't have to hold them back.

I've met many kids who have been told by doctors, "Don't play sports, don't do this, make sure you get everything under control."

It's disheartening to them because they just want to be a normal kid like everyone else. I think it's good for them to see that someone who's 26 and is able to play in the NFL and able to do everything that they want to do, even if it's being an actor or a firefighter or whatever it is.

It's just good for these kids to see that.