Jay Cutler said there's no need for Brian Urlacher to apologize. He understands the linebacker's frustration, and if there's any ill will between the Chicago Bears' stars, the quarterback passed on confirming it.
After reports of a rift in the summer, their relationship again was fodder for discussion after Urlacher questioned the Bears' direction while wondering why they went from emphasizing the run to the pass during an interview with Yahoo! Sports over the weekend. Many viewed that as a shot at Cutler, the Pro Bowl quarterback whose arrival in an offseason trade with Denver ignited a surge of optimism in Chicago.
Now, that's gone.
Cutler leads the league with 20 interceptions and the Bears are 4-7. They've dropped four straight and six of seven, and while their playoff hopes are just about gone, they at least have a chance to stop this slide Sunday against woeful St. Louis (1-10). The Rams have just eight interceptions this season, and that could bode well for Cutler, who has 15 in the past seven games.
Yet on Wednesday, the focus was more on Urlacher's comments.
"He didn't have to apologize to me," Cutler said. "I talked to him. I understand what he's talking about. It's frustrating. It's frustrating for everybody in that locker room. I know where he's coming from."
In the Yahoo! interview, Urlacher called Cutler "a great player who can take us a long way" and said he still has "faith in him," but he also hates "the way our identity has changed."
"We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we'd rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win," Urlacher told the Web site. "Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that's the truth."
The problem is that the Bears' running game ranks last in the league, and the defense hardly resembles the dominant unit that led the 2006 team to the Super Bowl.
With Orton last season, the Bears missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Of course, he went to Denver in the trade, and while Cutler can "absolutely" see why others would interpret Urlacher's comments as a slight, he insisted he didn't take them that way.
"You can't take anything personal in this game, especially whenever we're losing," he said. "I'm going to get a lot of blame. I'm aware of that. A lot of it should come my way. I'm understanding of that. I know Brian's frustrated. I'm frustrated. There's not much we can do."
Cutler said it's "100 percent fair" that he's taking the blame even though there have been breakdowns in just about every area this season. He said quarterbacks are ultimately judged by their record, and at 21-27 as a starter, his is not good. He pointed out that it took until his third year in Denver for the offense to come together and "get the right guys, the right personnel."
The Bears clearly have some work to do. There were signs of trouble even as they built a 3-1 record heading into their bye.
Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the season-opening loss at Green Bay. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in that game, an injury that ultimately ended his season. He played against Atlanta on Oct. 18, got carted from the sideline and finally went on injured reserve on Wednesday.
The offensive line has been ineffective all year, leaving Cutler under pressure and often on the ground. He hasn't helped himself by making questionable decisions, leading to interceptions, and the Bears usually go nowhere when they hand off the ball.
"Do we want to run the ball more?" offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "Yeah, there's no question about that."
The Bears average a league-low 85.1 yards rushing per game and are last in the league with 21 runs for 10 or more yards. The defense can't bail them out, either.
"We've struggled running the ball and Brian's right," Cutler said. "You don't have to run the ball every play. But when you run the ball, you have to be effective. I think that's the most important part. There are a lot of teams that throw the ball, but when they do run the ball, it's effectively. I think that's the main issue."
NOTES: LB Lance Briggs (knee), DE Alex Brown (calf), CB Charles Tillman (mild concussion) and LT Orlando Pace (groin) did not practice on Wednesday. ... Chris Williams practiced Wednesday at left tackle, his natural position, and is expected to start there against St. Louis with Pace injured after playing on the right side, although coach Lovie Smith would not confirm it. Kevin Shaffer practiced at right tackle.