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Refreshed, Cutler ready to tackle disease, football, life

Denver coach Mike Shanahan believes Jay Cutler will be an even better quarterback now that he is treating his diabetes. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Darrell Jackson had arrived in Denver just as his quarterback was beginning to deal with the staggering news that he is a Type 1 diabetic.

Jackson never knew.

"I was here for two weeks, and I had no clue," Jackson said this week at the Denver Broncos' training facility. "I didn't know about it until I read it in the newspaper. I couldn't tell anything was wrong."

Now, a month after news of Jay Cutler's condition broke, Jackson still can't detect any problems.

"Jay talks with a swagger, he walks with a swagger, he throws with a swagger -- he seems cool to me," said Jackson, a nine-season veteran. "I try to stay away from all of the medical parts of it, but Jay seems fine to me."

And Cutler feels fine, Darrell.

"I feel like I did last year at camp and before," Cutler said Wednesday. "I'm not really worried about games. My levels are pretty steady right now. Everything is fine. I feel fine in practice. I don't get high or low. It's been a good dry run. I don't anticipate any problems in the future."

In his first news conference since working in the Broncos' organized team activities, the newly diagnosed diabetic pronounced himself fit and ready for the rest of his NFL career and the rest of his life. Cutler, who turned 25 on April 29, disclosed May 2 that he was diagnosed with the most serious form of diabetes on April 16.

Cutler first felt the effects of the disease this past October. He dropped from 235 pounds to 203 at the end of the regular season. His sluggishness extended into the offseason. He had no energy and couldn't put on weight, despite continuously eating and drinking to try to stave off insatiable hunger and thirst.

Now that he has been diagnosed, Cutler tests his blood sugar and takes insulin four times a day. He sometimes wears an insulin pump during practice but won't during games. He said he feels refreshed and is eating a diet with much less fat, adding that he now weighs in the high 220-pound range.

He's already had a strong enough arm. Now it's going to be even stronger. I'll have to wear a couple of pair of gloves.

-- WR Brandon Stokley on QB Jay Cutler

Headed into his second full season as an NFL starting quarterback, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2006 draft has gotten a boost from this Denver camp. In the second half of 2007's 7-9 season, Cutler was weak. He had no zip on his passes.

Now, the kid who came out of Vanderbilt and was known for his velocity has his old fastball back. And more, apparently.

"I've got everything back," Cutler said.

His teammates who were with him last season agree. Denver receiver Brandon Stokley said he sees a much more vibrant quarterback than he did toward the end of last season, on and off the field.

"He's just stronger; he has more energy," Stokley said. "I see a lot more energy with him. He seems a lot stronger. A lot more confident. He's already had a strong enough arm. Now it's going to be even stronger. I'll have to wear a couple of pair of gloves."

Denver coach Mike Shanahan said Cutler has gotten back to his old self because he has taken control of his disease.

"Jay has met this thing head on," Shanahan said. "I'm really not surprised. I mean, he was diagnosed with a very serious disease, and he has just gone after it and is treating it. He's done a great job of dealing with it. Jay has great discipline. To be a successful quarterback in the National Football League, you have to have discipline, and Jay has plenty of it. It is really helping him deal with it."

Shanahan also said he believes Cutler will be an even better quarterback now that he is treating his disease.

"He is healthier than he ever has been in his life," Shanahan said. "Jay is eating well and is in great shape. He is very aware of health, and that will pay off for him."

Cutler is not taking his health for granted. He said he has received countless letters and e-mails, mostly from children with Type I diabetes, and he said the support has helped him get to this point.

"It just feels good to be back to my old self, and I'm happy to be out here," Cutler said. "I'm enjoying it."

Still, Cutler is a realist. He realizes he has the most difficult job in the state of Colorado, in the never-diminishing shadow of John Elway. Disease or no disease, Cutler knows he must deliver in Denver.

"If we start 0-4, I'll be blamed," Cutler said. "Diabetes or not."

Bill Williamson covers the NFL for ESPN.com.