BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — The body-language cops and critics knock Jay Cutler enough that new signees aren’t sure what to expect from the quarterback upon joining the Chicago Bears.
That’s partly why backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen expressed surprise Thursday about Cutler’s willingness to take on the role of mentor. After signing with the Bears on June 5, Clausen spent his first weekend as a Chicago Bear with Cutler learning the offense.
“Just hearing different things around the league, ‘Jay’s this, Jay’s that, different guys are this or different guys are that,’” Clausen said. “But you’ve just got to get to know a person, a man on the team. He’s just like all the rest of the guys, just hungry to get out there each and every day, work hard, and win on Sundays.”
With Cutler’s help, Clausen put on enough of a show during veteran minicamp in June to convince the team’s brass to extend the audition to training camp. Now, Clausen finds himself in prime position to overtake Jordan Palmer to become the primary backup to Cutler.
“He helped me out a lot,” Clausen said of Cutler. “Obviously, you get a whole entire playbook, but a lot of the plays in the playbook aren’t necessarily the ones you run. So he kind of went through pretty much the whole entire playbook and said, ‘Hey, you need to know this, this, and this. He really helped me a lot.”
That assistance perhaps plays a role in intensifying the competition between Clausen and Palmer for the No. 2 job. Palmer originally signed with the Bears last August, was cut after training camp, and returned two months later to finish out the season with the team.
Early in the offseason, Bears coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery expressed confidence in going into the 2014 season with Palmer as the No. 2 quarterback. But the Bears drafted David Fales in the sixth round, and signed Clausen in June following a strong workout and personal interview session with the brass at Halas Hall.
“Right now, Jordan Palmer has the first shot at being No. 2,” Trestman said. “There’s three guys there up for the No. 2, but it’s going to start with Jordan, and we feel really good about Jimmy. We felt really good about David’s performance as well. We’re just going to work at it like that. We’re going to give Jordan the first shot. He’s been here the longest. Jimmy Clausen has the most experience, so we’re going to work to get him in there.”
Does Cutler have a preference? The quarterback certainly didn’t indicate as much Wednesday when he arrived at camp.
“Jordan, he’s been around a long time, his older brother, he’s been able to watch him a lot,” Cutler said. “Jimmy, he’s played in big games at Notre Dame and kind of [has] the pedigree. He’s a high-round pick, was in a tough position in Carolina. They’re both very hungry. They’ve both worked extremely hard this offseason putting in the time mentally.”
Clausen spent the past month going into camp, studying and training in Westlake Village, California, alongside players such as Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick.
“I think I’ve got a good grasp of it right now,” Clausen said. “It’s just taking what I’ve been studying onto the field and having it translate into practice each and every play. It’ll be interesting to get on the field and get going. I’m excited. Day 1 is tomorrow.”
Like Cutler, Clausen has dealt with scrutiny over the years regarding his attitude, and perceptions about his ego. He encourages those hurling the criticisms to do what he did in establishing a relationship with Cutler.
“Everybody has their own opinion, but until you get to know somebody, you can’t really make a judgment on the person,” Clausen said. “A lot of people say different things about me, or different guys on the team, or Jay, or whoever it may be. I think it’s unfair if you just make a judgment without knowing somebody, but that’s just how this world is today.”