Despite a preseason that has had him running for his life or ducking for cover far too often, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler can't wait for the regular season to begin.
That might seem odd, considering the Bears have scored just 17 points in the five quarters that Cutler has played in the preseason, during which he was sacked 10 times, threw 2 interceptions and compiled a passer rating of 62.4.
But Cutler says he's ready to play for keeps in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme, starting with the season opener against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 12.
"I'm good," he said. "I met with Mike a lot since the preseason started, just talking through game plans. We're going to do more and more of that once the season starts getting a little bit closer, just talking Detroit.
"And from week to week I'm sure we'll have a lot of film sessions and going over the game plan. But I feel good about the system. I understand it, and I know what we're trying to get accomplished out there. So I'm ready for the real games to start."
Really? After getting blanked by the Arizona Cardinals on six possessions?
"It's preseason," Cutler said. "We're (running some) plays just to run plays and getting game ready and season ready. We're not calling exactly what we want to call against exactly the right defense we want to get.
"We're not checking anything (changing plays). We're not making a ton of adjustments on the fly, either.
"Is there reason for concern? I mean, maybe, maybe not. I'm not concerned. I don't think anybody in that locker room is really concerned (with) where we're at.
"I think we're happy with where we are. There's room to improve absolutely, but I think we'll be ready Week 1."
No one who has seen Martz's offense hitting on all cylinders doubts that it can run like a race car. Opening up the playbook requires better protection up front, but Cutler's ready to hit the gas pedal.
"We're going to open it up," he said. "Those guys will be expected to make it happen over there. They played a lot better this past game going back and looking at the film.
"I was a little edgy in the pocket moving around sometimes. I could have helped them out a little bit. That's what we're learning.
"With (guard) Lance (Louis) in there and with (tackle) Chris (Williams) on the left side, they're kind of still jelling together.
"Some of the calls are a little bit new to them as well with what we're doing protection-wise. So it's all coming together and I think once we get closer to Detroit we'll be OK."
Martz expected to see a better performance than he did Saturday, but he'd rather deal with problems early and get them corrected before the regular season.
"There's so much information on them; they're so wound up and so tight, they wanted to play well so badly," he said. "We made some mistakes that I was a little bit surprised by, but fortunately you get that done now instead of the opener, and get that out of your system.
"We've had a real good cleanup week of practice on those things. I think that there's a cohesion now, particularly in the passing game."
Martz and Cutler both said the offensive line showed improvement and looked better in film review than in the heat of the battle.
"Chris (Williams) did a nice job," Martz said. "Lance (Louis) was a standout. I wish I could show you tape of Lance on (Darnell) Dockett. He did a terrific job.
"Each week our group grows together and gets better and better. I'm very pleased with the progress, particularly in the protections with that group."