Curran: On Cutler and Ochocinco


Curran: On Cutler and Ochocinco

By TomE. Curran

On his final play of the 2010 NFC Championship game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler walked up behind his center without a noticeable limp. He took the snapand dropped back on a third-and-4 play. He tried to hit Devin Hester on a little flip, hopping in the air as he released. The ball short-hopped Hester and Cutler trudged off the field and into the teeth of a great debate.Hurt or not hurt was the initial issue. But other topics have been swept into the cyclone now. Toughness, pain thresholds, the propriety of NFL players criticizing peers, the propriety of anyoneholding an opinion on whether a player is too hurt to play,the need to protect players . . . all are subjects that have been sucked up and swirled around in the mouth of the NFL watching world like so much gargle.
NFL players -- current and former -- lined up to skewer Cutler for "tapping out" (Deion Sanders' description) of a game so meaningful. The avalanche buried Cutler's reputation alive. And since then, the Bears organization -- coaches and teammates -- has been digging Cutler out. It was their decision to take Cutler out, they maintained. He wanted to go back in. "You never want a player to be on the field if he can't protect himself," said Chicago coach Lovie Smith.Let's hitthe pause button on the entire discussion. What did we see? Isn't that what matters instead of the words of an organization bent on saving its franchise quarterback's tattered psyche and torn reputation? When exactly did Cutler appear in danger of being unable to move nimbly enough to elude pressure? Which throw announced thata damaged Cutler was a lesser option than fossilized Todd Collins or untested Caleb Hanie?Itsure didn't look like the last throw. Nor did it look like Cutler couldn't protect himself on the preceding play, a handoff toMatt Forte on which Cutler turned and actually threw a pretty solid block on a Green Bay defender coming off the edge. Was it the pick that he threw with 37 seconds left in the half to Sam Shields, a ball that traveled 40 yards downfield with the flick of a wrist? On none of those plays did Jay Cutler look like a player who needed to be rescued. Now, if the Bears want to say he looked ineffective because he was favoring his knee, that's one thing. That's plausible. Even if he didn't appear to be limping much (or at all), the pick and the short-hop were weak throws. But so were several others before Cutler was sacked by Shields just after the two-minute warning, the play that likelycaused the MCL spraintearowie.What isn't plausible is the idea that Jay Cutler was in imminent danger on Sunday. And what we saw means a whole lot more than what everyone else says. Or it should. AS THE OCHO TURNSRecently, Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco cooed via Twitter about the possibility of being wedded football-wise to the Patriots. In a tweet directed to The Herald's Ian Rapoport, Ocho said "PePe and Bill EPIC." Rap, like a good Rap should, stomped over to Bengals coach Marvin Lewis down at the Senior Bowl on Monday and asked Lewis about Ocho (who still has a year left on his Bengals contract) playing for the Patriots. "Belichick's smarter than that,"Lewis said to Rapoport. Rap mentioned the Patriots' trading for Randy Moss in 2007. Lewis countered with a "How's that working out for them . . ." response. Meanwhile, Ocho was showing some leg to another would-be AFC East opportunity. On this week's episode of the T. Ocho Show, Ochocinco said of the New York Jets, "They will make it to this point deep in the playoffs every year. Id do anything to play for someone like Rex Ryan, or anyone who has that type of mentality.T.O., never one to merely nod and regard thoughtfully, said (in short), "Hey, me too!"How Belichick is "someone like Rex Ryan" is a mystery. But the simple fact that Ryan's approach serves as bait for "me-first" players like T.O. and Ocho certainly will make it interesting for Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum. "If you build it, they will come . . . "

Tom E. Curran canbe reached at Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”