After seven training-camp practices, receivers are adjusting to Jay Cutler's fastball, and he says he's comfortable with his supporting cast, even though critics continue to pan the Bears' wideouts and even the upgraded offensive line.
"It's fine," Cutler said. "I think this offensive line is great. We have a Hall of Famer at left tackle (Orlando Pace) and then (center) Olin (Kreutz). He's going to be in contention (for the Hall of Fame) as well.
"(Right tackle) Chris Williams, I've worked with him in the past (at Vanderbilt). The two guards (Roberto Garza and either Josh Beekman or Frank Omiyale) are solid.
"Receiver-wise, people can keep doubting them all they want. That's fine. But those guys are going to come to play on Sunday, so I'm excited about the whole group."
Cutler might be even more excited about the contract extension of Eli Manning. The Giants' quarterback was said to have agreed Wednesday to a six-year extension worth $97.5 million, with $35 million guaranteed.
That rising tide is sure to lift Cutler's financial boat if he continues to play at a Pro Bowl level.
But he has two more seasons left on his original six-year, $48 million rookie contract of 2006, so he's not interested in even talking about an extension just yet.
"There's going to be a time and a place for that," he said. "This year I still have to go out and play and prove myself on the field and then, maybe after this season, maybe after the next season, we'll sit down and talk and see what we can do."
Tom Brady signed a six-year, $60 million deal in 2005, and that has since been eclipsed by Peyton Manning (seven years, $99 million), Ben Roethlisberger (eight years, $102 million) and Carson Palmer (seven years, $118.75 million).
"Peyton and Tom raised the bar and got big contracts, and then Eli followed it up," Cutler said. "There are some guys in line to get paid. Philip (Rivers) has played great the last two or three years out in San Diego. We'll see how it goes in Chicago this year."
It went pretty well Wednesday at Olivet Nazarene University, where Cutler's fastball was on display throughout the noon practice.
Near the end of the session, in a two-minute drill that ended with Robbie Gould's 43-yard field goal, the Bears' new quarterback opened the drive with a bullet to Brandon Rideau into a seam, deep in the heart of the defense.
Earlier in 11-on-11 Trumaine McBride had Devin Hester blanketed deep down the sideline, but Cutler made a perfect throw for a huge gain.
On the next play a Cutler rocket went through the outstretched hands of a leaping Earl Bennett.
The ball caromed off a defender and kept going another 20 yards down the field, even though Bennett is more familiar with Cutler's velocity than anyone, having played with him for a year at Vanderbilt.
Cutler also has demonstrated the soft touch required on finesse routes. But what sets him apart is the rare ability to drill a pass through a crowd and fit it through a tiny window to his intended receiver. Sometimes that means bringing the heat.
"Whenever we need to stick it in there, it's going to be coming fast, and the receivers know it and the tight ends know it," Cutler said after practice. "This game moves fast, and the faster I can get them the ball, the more time they have to make a move.
"Earl has caught my ball for a long time. They (all) understand that, and it's just something they're going to have to adjust to."