Cutler displays arm strength, quick release in first practice

A throng of media flocked to Halas Hall Wednesday to watch Jay Cutler’s first OTA practice as a member of the Bears, and the Pro Bowl quarterback did not disappoint.

Cutler demonstrated his tremendous arm strength and quick release while participating in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills against the Bears defense for the first time since his ballyhooed arrival April 2.

“His arm strength, I’ve never been around anything like that before,” said offensive coordinator Ron Turner, “and he’s shown very good accuracy the little bit I’ve been around him.”

Jay Cutler (far left) watches a kickoff drill along with fellow quarterbacks Brett Basanez and Caleb Hanie during Wednesday’s OTA practice at Halas Hall.

Cutler hasn’t missed a single day of the Bears’ offseason program. He’s spent four days a week the past six weeks lifting weights, meeting with coaches and throwing passes to his offensive teammates. But Wednesday marked the first time he faced the defense in a competitive setting.

“We’ve had a long time of going against ourselves offensively,” Cutler said, “so it’s always good for the guys to go against a little competition and see what kind of progress we’ve made.

“We’ve been working a lot. We’ve actually cut back a little bit these last two weeks to give the guys a rest and give my arm rest because we’ve been really going at it just trying to get the timing down. We’ve got a lot of young receivers and they’ve got to get used to the way I throw the ball.

“I thought Day 1 looked good. Obviously there’s some stuff we can improve and we’ve got to look at the film, but it’s a good start.”

One Bears veteran shook his head in amazement while watching Cutler deliver passes with so much velocity that it appeared the football was being shot out of a cannon.

“You just have to get used to catching a ball that comes that hard,” said receiver Rashied Davis. “It comes fast and it’s on you real quick. Sometimes you can hear it coming, so you’ve just got to get your head around.

“Once you get used to running routes with him and catching the ball from him, it gets a little bit easier. But he throws the ball pretty hard and the heat is still on the ball 20 yards down the field.”

Second-year receiver Earl Bennett knows a thing or two about catching Cutler’s passes. The two played together at Vanderbilt in 2005 when Bennett was a freshman and the quarterback was a senior.

“You’ve just got to keep your eye on the ball because it’ll fly by you in a second,” Bennett said. “You’ve got to stay focused. He has a strong arm, there’s no question about that.”

Expectations are extremely high for Cutler, who was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Denver Broncos that cost the Bears starting quarterback Kyle Orton and two first-round draft picks. But that’s just fine with the 26-year-old.

“Any time a team wants to make a trade like that and gives up what they gave up, there’s going to be a lot of pressure and a lot of high expectations, and I welcome that,” Cutler said. “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a good challenge. I’ve got a lot of time to work with the guys and get ready for Game 1.”

The assimilation process has gone smoothly to this point with coaches marveling at how quickly Cutler has picked up the Bears offense.

“We’ve given him a lot and he’s not really holding us back from what we would normally put in at this time,” Turner said following Wednesday’s two-hour non-contact practice.

So far Cutler has enjoyed his short time with the Bears.

“It’s been good,” he said. “I think any time you come to a team that you’re familiar with and you’ve got some guys that I played with at Vandy, it makes the transition a lot better. The locker room is full of great guys and they’ve welcomed me with open arms, so it’s been nice.”

Asked whether he feels the Bears are his team, Cutler said: “No, not yet. This is a defensive kind of run team with Brian [Urlacher] and Lance [Briggs] and some of those guys and Olin [Kreutz] offensively.

“That’s going to come in time. You can’t rush things like that. You’ve got to kind of take things in stride and get guys to trust you and have confidence in you and hopefully by Game 1 they’re all behind me.”

As his comfort level grows, Cutler no doubt will become the same vocal leader he was in Denver.

“I think a quarterback’s got to be a coach on the field and you’ve got to get the best out of every single player you have out there, and it’s a delicate process,” Cutler said.

“I can yell at some guys and you can lightly push other guys. It’s a tiptoe act and I’ve got to feel out the guys and kind of see what their pressure points are and how much you can push them, and that’s going to come in time.”


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