- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LAKE FOREST, ILL. (AP) - Jay Cutler finally got some protection.

The Chicago Bears rushed to their quarterback’s defense on Monday, blasting current and former players who in Twitter posts questioned his toughness for sitting out most of the second half of Sunday’s 21-14 NFC championship game loss to Green Bay with a knee injury.

“I think it’s crap,” general manager Jerry Angelo said. “I thought they were a union. If that’s the way they unionize themselves, they got bigger issues than the one that they have with the owners. I’m very disappointed. That, to me, is dirty pool.”

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, along with former players like Deion Sanders and ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, were among those criticizing Cutler on Sunday.

To that, coach Lovie Smith said, “Our quarterback’s a tough guy. … It’s pretty simple what happened yesterday. Before the half, Jay hurt his knee. He showed a lot of toughness to continue to play with it.”

Smith said Cutler sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee late in the first half and would have been questionable for the Feb. 6 Super Bowl had the Bears beaten Green Bay. He also emphasized the team and medical staff made the call to lift the quarterback, who played the first series in the third quarter before standing on the sideline.

Cutler underwent an MRI on Monday and was at Halas Hall. He did not make himself available to the media and declined comment on the criticism after the game.

His coach and teammates had plenty to say, though. They were particularly peeved about a series of Twitter posts by current and former players ripping Cutler.

“I’ll just tell you this, the one thing I know about Jay Cutler is he’s tough,” said third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie, who led a late comeback bid. “Another thing I know about him is he’s going to stand up for his teammates. He didn’t want to let his teammates down. So if he could have been on the field and been productive for the team, he would have done it.”

Receiver Earl Bennett, Cutler’s teammate at Vanderbilt, called the criticism “very unprofessional.”

Defensive tackle Anthony Adams labeled it “garbage” and “unfair.”

And tight end Greg Olsen said, “I think it’s insane. I think anyone who’s ever watched us, that would probably be the last thing anyone’s ever questioned.”

Yet current and former players alike were doing just that.

Jones-Drew, who played the first 14 games with a partially torn meniscus in his right knee before shutting it down, posted two comments about Cutler. He first compared the quarterback to former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who resigned in December, then wrote: “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee … I played the whole season on one.”

“I threw out this joke and the backlash came in,” Jones-Drew told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday. “I tried to make it right, but it backfired.”

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