Bernstein: Cutler Truth Clouds Bears’ Future

Jay Cutler was asked directly yesterday if he had ever suffered a concussion before the one he sustained against the Giants.

His answer?  “No.”

Cutler is either lying or extremely forgetful, since the Chicago Tribune today cites reports that he suffered three concussions during his college career at Vanderbilt and another as a Denver Bronco in the final game of the 2006 season.

The stakes are higher, now, for every decision the Bears make in the immediate aftermath of concussion #5, as well as for the decisions they already made — to trade for Cutler in the first place, and then to lavish him with a five-year contract worth $50 million.

It is possible, certainly, that the Bears were fully informed of his medical history before deciding to acquire and extend him.  One would hope that such due diligence is routine and thorough for a move of franchise-changing magnitude.  Or any, really, for that matter.

We must consider, however, the scary chance that some information about him was snarled in the red tape of medical data dating back to his freshman year in 2002.  Football teams at all levels have been known to fudge reports and diagnoses to maintain eligibility of key players.

If the Bears indeed knew his brain had been bruised four times, it makes the last-ditch hiring of Mike Martz seem even riskier.  Quarterbacks get pummelled as a function of his scheme, even when it is working.  His offenses regularly finish at or near the top of the NFL in sacks allowed.  Cutler was defiant yesterday, standing firmly behind his aggressive style of play within Martz’s deep-drop vertical passing attack.

Yet his unwillingness to tell the truth about previous injury betrayed the increasing fear shared by NFL players of the tenuousness of their jobs amid the flood of information regarding concussion dangers.  Teammate Hunter Hillenmeyer is out for the year after a preseason concussion was followed by another in the opener, and it was noted that his status as both a prominent advocate of concussion-awarneness and respected union rep likely influenced the heavy-handedness of his forced deactivation.

Yesterday, Hillenmeyer was demoted to alternate NFLPA rep of the Bears, replaced by kicker Robbie Gould.  I am told that Hillenmeyer’s own uncertainty over his playing future led to his recommendation that he step down.

WBBM’s Tom Thayer recently opined on The Score that the spotlight on NFL concussions would cause players to lie to trainers and doctors.  Rather than admit to a damaging blow to the head, he believes, players will claim to have the wind knocked out of them, or come up with a convenient limp to the sideline.  It is a brutal game, but it pays exorbitant sums of money to men who see no other way to similarly provide for themselves and their families.  Thayer prefers that modern-day gladiators be allowed to destroy each other’s brains, fully aware of the risks they assume.

He has a point, stark though it may be.

On Sunday, Jay Cutler takes the field against Seattle.  The Seahawks have one of the worst-ranked pass defenses in the league.  The line of men responsible for protecting Cutler — the one that surrendered an all-time-record nine sacks in the first half in New York — now has a left guard playing his first game at the position, a late-round rookie at right tackle, and a scrap-heap waiver claim at right guard.

Appreciate every snap Cutler plays.

More from Dan Bernstein
  • 2nd Half Adjustments

    Nice having a real QB while he lasted.

    On a serious note, the more I personally learn about concussions, the less I like football.

  • diggs

    Thayer makes some great points about hiding the fact that one was hit in the head because of the focus on concussions.

  • Chet's Inflated Ego

    I have often heard jocks talk about the difference between being hurt and injured, that you play hurt but need medical treatment if you are injured.
    Thayer’s point is unfortunately true.

    Rough loss to the Preds.

  • AT3374

    Great points Bernsie , please protect Cutler this week . The Bears can sleepwalk and win this division if GB Packers continue to get injured and the Vikes continue to sputter , but Cutler needs to stay upright . Big risk this week if the coaching staff continues to go statis quo with the offense .

    And yes that was a bad loss for the Hawks

  • Vegas Cub Fan

    Once again, Bernsey is spot on. He should be a scribe for one of the papers in town just like DanMaaacneeee

    • chris_hinsdale


  • bronzo

    Is it me, is it too early, or do the hawks look a little out of sync? They just don’t seem to have any real “flow’ to them . Their 3rd period defense was terrible. and a tough penalty on Boynton trying to clear the puck and it goes into the stands…

    • Chet's Inflated Ego

      Excellent comment, spot-on.
      The Hawks just don’t yet look like a team for 60 minutes.
      There was so much turnover from the Cup team that it will take Q a little time to get them all on the same page, to get the flow that will ne needed to make a good defense of the Cup come Spring.

      • Beverly Brewmaster

        While last night’s loss indeed sucked, it really looked just like the first few games of last season’s playoff series against Nashville: without Brian Campbell to move the puck through the neutral zone, the Preds were able to gum things up and the Hawks compounded their problems by failing to work the puck out of the corners. Frustrating? Yeah, but not surprising.

        Two bright spots… Hossa still looks like a man among boys (how about that assist on Toews’ goal?!) and Pisani is looking great on the penalty kill.


    Just because Jay Cutler should be good to go for Sunday’s game vs. the Seahawks at Soldier Field doesn’t mean the Bears should pass first. If I’m Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, I would like the Bears to continue running the football and protect Cutler a lot better than 2 weeks ago vs. the Giants on “Sunday Night Football”. I’ll be very interested to hear Brian Billick’s take on the Cutler concussion topic and his own view of Seattle when he, Chris Myers & Charissa Thompson provide the regional call of Sunday’s Bears’ game for the NFL on FOX. I’ll definitely be tuning in come 3p when Billick joins the guys.

  • Pulseczar

    If the Bears end up winning the division and/or getting a playoff berth you can guarantee Angelo and Lovie will be back.

    Boourns to that.

  • MistySlav

    Bernstein, I’m confused. What do you want from Cutler?

    How do you expect him to tell the “truth” about a complex medical issue that is far from an exact science when he is not a neurologist? It is hardly in his best interest to reveal the nature of his medical history unless it indicates he is a completely healthy individual. And based upon what we all have come to learn from the sport of football and the punishment the human brain takes over time, Jay Cutler would have to be playing the game for the very first time in order to be a completely healthy individual.

    It seems to me that there is an impossible standard that exists.

    Football players cannot expect to be skilled once they come of age if they have not have not already had a successful career as a youth and college player. Based upon the latest studies and reports that have been released, we know the most damage comes from the daily grind of practices and not necessarily the single traumatic hits in games.

    Our most heralded football institutions cannot divorce themselves from the reality that they are also brain injury factories. Every single player, before they even reach the high school level, has countless concussions and brain trauma.

    As a fan of the NFL, I only expect that elite players are able to perform despite the debilitating physical trauma and handicap they suffer from. Teams should invest in state of the art brain imaging technology in order to evaluate the condition of players.

    Brain trauma cannot be diagnosed by a series of questions posed to an individual. Nor should a player be expected to evaluate his own condition or answer questions regarding medical history.

    Such questions are unnecessary. Anyone who doesn’t know the answer of such questions is in denial about the violent nature of the NFL.

    I appreciate the fact that members of the media are bringing increased awareness about brain injury to the public’s attention. But I don’t believe it is appropriate to drag players out in the public square and hold them accountable for their perceived lack of honesty. They have certainly made a corrupt bargain, but they are paying a price far beyond the benefits received.

  • Toeania's Hair

    Kind of like minor surgery, I feel minor “concussion” (level I) is only minor when it happens to someone else.

  • bronzo

    Agree on Hossa Bev…he REALLY looks good. Again it’s still very early just an observation.

  • puddin' head

    i would think it would be difficult to find an NFL player who hasen’t had some kind of concussion during their career….just sayin

  • Bob in San Diego

    Since I listen on the Podcast only, have they covered Forest Goff’s race yet and if so, who won?

  • iknowthingz

    The new awareness in the NFL about concushions is going to sideline more QBs. Hes is not an isolated case. Didn’t Aaron Rodgers get a concushion last week? Either the rules are going to change or there will be more players sitting out games because of it.

  • Lydell

    “The way you held the ball / The way that you once threw / The memories of it all / Oh, we can take that away from you. The way your eyes just stare / The way you sort of chew / The Pampers that you wear / Sad, we can’t take that away from you…”

    • Chet's Inflated Ego

      Lydell, that was pure LOL genius.
      First time in history that George & Ira Gershwin were used to lampoon concussions in the NFL. LOL genius, thanks man.

  • Boynton's fire and passion

    Turco a journeyman?!?! With all due respect Marty Turco is a multi-season all star and was at one time considered one of the best goalies in the game along with Broduer. I know everyone in this city is new to his play and his agressive style but this is a trained vet in every sense of the word. His play is almost completely opposite of the previous goalie and needs an adjustment period. Secondly this is exactly what Crawford needs. A seasoned vet who was seen how good teams work and will be able to help him into his role which will most likely be the future long term goaltender of the Blackhawks if he continues to progress. “Pay that man his money” Randy Moller.


    My e-mail account won’t let me type an address. Text yes, address no. Hulk smash!

    Anyway, one of the best Simpson episodes is Bart gets a Big Brother.
    “I love you Homer,”
    “I love you too, Pepsi.”
    “It’s Pepe.”

  • diggler

    Has anyone performed a baseline concussion test on Boers? This guy repeats himself over and over and over and does not understand compounding interest. These guys rail on overpaid athletes and skewers management for spending money on questionable players….you have to take a long, critical look at Boers salary and performance….and the people that keep him employed. Sad old man.

    • Mike - Milwaukee

      Guess I can’t decide what I would rather listen to Boers repeating himself or that idiot Bernstein. At least when Boers repeats himself it means Bernstein has to shut his mouth for a few seconds.

  • Lydell

    As Howard Hunter once said to Frank Furillo: “Thanks (Chet), I need the validation.” A sporting apology if this leads to thoughts of Barbara Bosson.

  • Jon, Montgomery

    WYC was great today, best one of the year so far in my opinion.

  • Top Posts —

    […] Bernstein: Cutler Truth Clouds Bears’ Future Jay Cutler was asked directly yesterday if he had ever suffered a concussion before the one he sustained against the […] […]

  • Jaimie in Hoffman Estates

    Anybody on here making there way out to the remote tomorrow, i might make an apperance. Got the day off and my boy will be w/Grandma.

  • Mike - Milwaukee

    So what does Cutler have left, one or two seasons? If that? Where will Bernstein be in 5 or 6 years if he is still playing in the NFL? I know one place he won’t be, and that is on her admitting he made a big deal over nothing. Bernstein throws out a bunch of nonsense and when he is wrong(most of the time) we never hear any admission on his part. Thanks for another one of your dumba$$ opinions.

  • sophist

    Bob: Goff won. They talked about it a few mornings ago, but I read it first on Laurence Holmes’ facebook page.

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