By Chris Emma-
BOURBONNAIS (CBS) — Through the gates down University Avenue, down a scenic campus street, the Bears entered their training camp home in Bourbonnais. Wednesday marked move-in day at Olivet Nazarene.
Down this wooded road, just outside the team’s headquarters, a giant, unsightly conversion van blocked the entrance. It belonged to quarterback Jay Cutler, who quickly defended his new vehicle. This is the new ride for the Bears’ franchise face.
Not much else has changed for Cutler. He’s the same guy, the familiar talents, the mannerisms that drive hollow debates. Becoming a father and a highly paid quarterback won’t alter his makeup one bit.
It’s the influences around Cutler who will make the difference. The Bears’ leader now has playmakers to work with, stability in the team’s coaching and schemes, as well security in the form of a seven-year deal that still has wet ink.
Starting with training camp, Cutler will have the chance to truly prove himself in a familiar setting.
“It should be fun,” Cutler said. “We have a lot of guys back, a lot of consistency and rollover from last year. It’s going to make things easier.”
In just one other instance in Cutler’s career has he gone to training camp with the same offensive coordinator in place. In each of his previous NFL seasons, the supporting cast on offense paled in comparison to his present Bears arsenal.
Bears coach Marc Trestman, known as “The Quarterback Whisperer,” is constantly synced with Cutler. He recognizes the potential in place.
“He’s got to work as hard as anybody, and he has,” Trestman said.
The Trestman transition in 2013 brought questions for Cutler and his Bears teammates. How would this unfamiliar regime mix with a capable core? On offense, the results were positive. Now, the demands are different.
“This year, there are still questions,” Cutler said. “They’re just questions about are we able to go out and perform and do what we did last year? I think that’s a better feeling going into camp for myself.”
Cutler is the leader of these new-look Bears — now featuring 43 offseason additions — and is playing the part.
The offense is built around its promising quarterback, with each piece complementing Cutler’s abilities. He’s doing the part to make the puzzle pieces fit — whether it’s traveling to Florida and throwing with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery or studying the playbook with reserve quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen.
“I’m excited to go out there with these guys,” Cutler said.
Added Trestman: “He’s gone about carrying himself like a quarterback should in this league.”
In Cutler, the Bears have an elite arm, a high football IQ and dedicated leader. But none of that is new, nor is it changed by becoming a father or trading in a Cadillac Escalade for a conversion van. He’s the same guy, just in a comfortable surroundings.
On Wednesday, the questions came for Cutler on how the Bears would manage lofty expectations this season. He responded with that familiar shrug and downplayed the excitement.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “We have to take this game seriously and get out of it as much as we can.”
Finally, the pieces are in place for Cutler to succeed. It’s time to see if he can write a new narrative. Then, he’ll be truly different.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.