On the Tunney Side of the Street 45

by Jim Tunney

After Further Review ...

Much has been written and talked about regarding the issue of Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler and "his decision" to take himself out of the NFC Championship game with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers went on to win 21-14 and then, as you know, defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV 31-25.

It appeared to viewers in that Packers-Bears game that at one point Cutler was "sacked" and came to the sideline limping - to the viewers that sort of "limping" happens regularly in the NFL. The word over television was that Cutler took himself out of the game because of an injury to his knee, but no word of the extent of injury at that point. Cutler then was seen on the sidelines riding a stationary bike, used by players to keep loose.  After a 3 & out to start the second, back up QB Todd Collins replaced Cutler.

When word from the Fox Sports announcers came that Cutler took himself out of the game, it gave many viewers the impression that, with such an important game at stake , maybe, Cutler was "wimping-out".  It turns out that Cutler had a Grade II torn MCL in his left knee and Bears Coach Lovie Smith, along with their medical staff, decided not to risk further injury and/or that Cutler could not perform up to the standard expected of him. In post-season interviews, Coach Smith and the Bears players not only supported the decision not to reinsert Cutler, but gave strong support to his courage/toughness.

The real question being posed here is: Do players play with heart or with smart(s)? While these two are not mutually exclusive, which one, if given a choice, should - or will - govern?  Players want to play and often play at ANY cost.  One example is: DE Jack Youngblood, who broke his fibula in the NFC Championship game with the Dallas Cowboys, had it taped up and then played the entire Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers with that broken bone.  While this "style-of-play" is not suggested, it is more often the rule than the exception. It's difficult to keep players out of the game no matter what injury they are experiencing. Thus, the NFL's policy insisting on medical approval in the case of concussions.