Commentary

It doesn't count, but it matters

Don't let Cutler's low-key approach fool you about his return to Denver

Originally Published: August 26, 2009
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

Seems the local fire department had a little problem with the Denver area establishment that was planning to set fire to Jay Cutler's Broncos jersey this weekend.

Apparently, you need a permit when you burn clothes right out in the open.

The place is called "Wrigley's Chicago Bar," which makes you wonder why the people there weren't considering torching Carlos Zambrano's jersey.

Either way, they apparently have rebounded and are now planning a Cutler jersey shredding party.

Forget the fact that it's hard to remember the last time anyone outside a Chicago elementary school owned a jersey from a Bears quarterback, past or present, in one piece or 100. It's tough to imagine anyone caring this much about a preseason football game.

From Cutler's perspective, the Bears-Broncos game "doesn't matter. It doesn't count for anything." And he's right about the "not counting." Not so sure about the not mattering, however.

If former Bears -- and current Broncos -- quarterback Kyle Orton throws four touchdown passes and Cutler tosses up four interceptions, will it mean anything in the bigger scheme of the regular season? Not likely. But you certainly would like to see the first teams continue to progress from Saturday's victory over the New York Giants, which was a welcome improvement from the loss to Buffalo the week before.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesKyle Orton has managed to get his digs in about the Chicago Bears ahead of Sunday's matchup with his former team.
This is also a nice little shot of adrenaline two weeks before Cutler's regular-season debut with the Bears in Green Bay.

And it will be kind of fun, too.

Bears coach Lovie Smith is calling it a "big game" in that way coaches call shredded knees "nicks." They often get their hyperbole all mixed up. He also said Cutler had "great memories" in Denver, which is probably true, but you might have a hard time getting the Bears QB to wax poetic this week.

This game might not count, but I'd love to hook him up to a heart monitor and get a readout when he steps off the plane.

Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said Sunday night's game will be "a good test" for Cutler.

"I said, 'Jay, you know way better than I do there are going to be distractions all week -- today, tomorrow, leading up to it, when you get in there, during the game. But they're only distractions if you let them be,'" Turner said. "I said, 'Just stay focused on doing your job and preparing that right way, and that'll take care of itself.' I'm sure it's going to be tough, but I think he'll do it ...

"I'm anxious to see how he handles it."

Orton is a moot point -- both for smart Bears fans, who shouldn't care whether he passes for 4 yards or 400, and for many Broncos fans, who have seen enough already after training camp and that three-interception game on Aug. 15.

Orton and Cutler have gotten in their little digs. Orton suggested that the Broncos have better receivers than the Bears and repeated that in a Wednesday conference call with Chicago media, saying, "I loved my time playing the way we did in Chicago and all that, but I think we've got a lot of great weapons here, and this year I'm going to try to use them."

Not exactly bulletin board stuff, particularly given that he's right.

As for Cutler, some in Denver are still muttering about the bite from an Aug. 4 interview on ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show in which he said there were more fans at Bears camp than at the Broncos' version. Stop the presses.

"Denver's like a six and Chicago's like a nine," said Cutler, who hopefully has not trotted out his best material.

On Wednesday at Halas Hall, he was considerably more toned down, responding to the burning jersey thing by saying, "I'm not the first player to get traded to a different team; I'm not going to be the last. So that's their business. That doesn't concern me."

How does he think he will be received?

"Probably poorly -- would be my first guess," he said.

And does he feel the need to talk to anyone from Broncos management?

"I don't think they want to talk to me," Cutler said.

No, Sunday's game doesn't count.

But it does matter.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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