Caleb Hanie: Jay Cutler was a big help

Updated: January 24, 2011, 9:11 PM ET
ESPNChicago.com

Chicago Bears backup quarterback Caleb Hanie is baffled by the criticism aimed at Jay Cutler, who left Sunday's NFC Championship Game because of a knee injury.

"I know Jay, and one thing he's not is a quitter," Hanie said Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "What was he, the most-sacked quarterback this year or close to it [Cutler was sacked an NFL-high 52 times]? He just keeps getting back up and going back in. He's not a quitter. You can say whatever you want about him, but he's not going to quit on his teammates. That's not going to happen."

Cutler said he suffered the injury on the second-to-last series of the first half. He was replaced by Todd Collins on the Bears' second series of the third quarter. Collins was replaced by Hanie with 57 seconds left in the third quarter and the Bears trailing 14-0.

The team announced on Monday afternoon that an MRI revealed that Cutler suffered a sprain to the medial collateral ligament of his left knee. A Sun-Times report had said earlier that Cutler tore the MCL.

Hanie, who had thrown for a total of 66 yards in his two seasons in the NFL, completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown. He led the Bears on two scoring drives and guided a potential game-tying drive that ended with an interception in the final seconds of the Bears' 21-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

But the spotlight remains on Cutler, who was shown standing on the sideline throughout the rest of the Bears' loss. Even Bears legend Mike Ditka wondered about the injury.

"I don't know if anybody can play the game when they're not 100 percent or not well," Ditka said on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" on ESPN Radio. "I can't speak for Jay Cutler. I can't speak for anybody.

"Myself, I would have had to have been paralyzed to come out of the game. I don't want to say that word. I would have had to be completely knocked out to come out of that football game."

His sentiments echoed those of many around the league, often expressed on Twitter.

Hanie believes the backlash is off base.

"I really can't believe it's blown up like it has. It's crazy to me. Knowing Jay personally for over two seasons now, he's one of the toughest guys you'll meet," Hanie said. "He'll sell out for the team, he'll die for the team. You never once heard him throw anybody under the bus, never thrown an offensive lineman under the bus, never thrown his receivers under the bus. There's a lot of times in his career here when he could have easily done that, and he always stuck up for them and just commented on his own play.

"He's shown great leadership throughout his time here in the locker room. People just kind of question that stuff because they see sometimes he might have a grumpy look on his face. But we know him, and we know that he would die to play. When you can't physically help the team and you're hurting the team, then everyone realizes it would be better if you sit out."

Cutler has also been criticized for his sideline demeanor Sunday, appearing to be detached from his teammates and the game itself. But Hanie said Cutler was a big help to him.

"He helped me out numerous times throughout the game," Hanie said. "When I went in, first of all he came and talked to me and said, 'Hey, trust yourself, trust your reads, use your feet if you have to; don't be afraid to do that. Trust the o-line and you'll be fine.' That calmed me down a little bit.

"Then after we went down and scored, I had the adrenaline going a little bit after that touchdown and it was the same thing. Right when I got to the sidelines he was the first one to say 'Great job, now you've just got to go get another one. Make sure you stay calm and composed in there.' So he helped me. He did that numerous times throughout the game. I guess people didn't see that on TV but it definitely happened."