NFC North news, notes and quotes

Jay Cutler knows the expectations Bears fans have for him, the Lions might end up drafting a guy often compared to Cutler, and the Packers' biggest move was signing an oft-injured tight end. Gets news and quotes from the Vikings' divisional rivals.

CHICAGO BEARS

Jay Cutler has been a Bears fan since he was a small child growing up in Santa Claus, Ind. But he was stumped when was asked if he could remember the last time Bears fans had the kind of over-the-top expectations for a quarterback as they do for him.

"I don't think I was alive," Cutler said, drawing laughs all around the Halas Hall auditorium late last week at his first press conference as a Chicago Bear. "It's been a while. (But) I think expectations are high everywhere in this league. Obviously in this town it's going to be a little bit higher because of the fans and how much they do love and cherish the Bears."

Most Bears observers have to go back to the 1940s and Sid Luckman to find a comparison to Cutler, who has already thrown for more yards in a season than any quarterback in Bears history. Cutler was stumped again when asked if he could live up to Luckman, a five-time all-pro quarterback who played on four Bears NFL championship teams but retired 33 years before Cutler was born.

"I'm going to have to do some research on Sid," Cutler said.

The 6-foot-3, 233-pound, rocket-armed Cutler turns 26 at the end of the month, but is already considered one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. He leaves the impression that he knows he's something special, but that he's good enough that he doesn't have to convince anyone.

Fans seem to be unanimous in their adulation of and excitement over the prospect of Cutler leading the Bears to the Promised Land, even though there are more than five months until the season opener.

"It's a little humbling," he said. "To grow up a Bears fan and watch this organization for so long and then to come full circle and have an opportunity to play, it's a dream come true."

Cutler threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. That's 688 more yards than Erik Kramer's Bears record, and Cutler's career passer rating of 87.1 is well ahead of Kramer's franchise-best career mark of 80.7.

But Cutler shuns the "savior" label.

"I don't see myself as that at all," he said. "In this, what I've learned over the past three years, is that it takes offense, defense, special teams and great coaching. If you don't have all four of those, you're not going to go very far."

Last season on a Broncos team that featured one of the NFL's worst defenses and was hit by an epidemic of season-ending injuries at running back, Cutler was forced to throw 616 times. Only the Saints' Drew Brees put it up more often.

That's in direct contrast to Bears coach Lovie Smith's mantra that, "We get off the bus running."

That's fine with Cutler, who would rather throw less and win more. But he said he might try to persuade Smith, who was sitting next to him at the press conference looking as happy as a kid with a new toy.

"I might maybe sway him a little bit," Cutler said with a grin. "But you have to run the football in this league. I found out the hard way last year. We threw and threw and threw and threw. Certain times, when we needed to run it, we weren't able to. Guys did a great job of trying to make up for it. But if you can't stop the run, or if you can't run the ball in this league, you're not going to win the big one."

The addition of Cutler makes the Bears believe from top to bottom that they now have what it takes to win a lot of big ones.

"Each and every year our goal is the same, it's to win the division, make the playoffs and win a championship," said general manager Jerry Angelo, who swung the deal for Cutler. "We put ourselves in a position to (be) one step close to doing that. When that opportunity presented itself to us, we seized the moment. We feel very good about not only his play but what he's going to add to our football team and our locker room through his leadership as well."

Those positive attributes weren't on display in the weeks leading up to the trade, when Cutler was vilified in the media. He was described as "petulant, spoiled, cry baby," and worse for forcing a trade. But he hopes to change the minds of those who have a negative opinion of him.

"I think that all will come in time," he said. "My teammates will see what kind of guy I am. The fans will see what kind of player I am, on and off the field. I'm going to be active in the community. My foundation (the Jay Cutler Foundation, which benefits at-risk youth) is going to get involved in Chicago."

But Cutler said he knows he won't win over everyone overnight.

"I'm not going to change everyone's mind (right away)," he said. "It's just not going to happen. There's going to be good articles, there's going to be bad articles, but hopefully over time I can win everybody over."

There's no question Cutler left Denver on bad terms, and he takes some of the blame, but he's anxious to get past the whole situation.

"There are some things that I'd do differently, and I think there are some things the Broncos would do differently," he said. "In the end, it was just a situation that I think both parties felt that it was best if we part ways. I think the Broncos are happy with the decision, they're happy with how it turned out, and I think the Bears are too."

He's definitely right about the Bears.


DETROIT LIONS

Not only did the Lions fail to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler, they watched him go to an NFC North rival, Chicago. Not only don't they have him, they will have to face him twice a year.

But the Lions were unwilling or unable to match the Bears' offer to the Broncos, let alone beat it. And they might draft a quarterback often compared to Cutler with the No. 1 overall pick: Georgia's Matthew Stafford.

When the Lions inquired about Cutler in February, they were, at least in theory, trying to get him for the No. 33 pick.

Like the Buccaneers, the Lions were trying to swing a three-way deal with the Patriots that would have sent quarterback Matt Cassel to Denver to reunite him with coach Josh McDaniels, who had been his offensive coordinator in New England. The Patriots traded Cassel to the Chiefs instead for the No. 34 pick.

In the aftermath, Cutler requested a trade, the Broncos eventually put him on the block publicly and, with several teams interested, the price rose dramatically. The Bears gave up two first-round picks (one in 2010), a third-round pick and quarterback Kyle Orton for Cutler. The Broncos also gave up a fifth-round pick in the trade.

The Lions had no quarterback like Orton to offer. The No. 1 pick probably wasn't attractive to the Broncos because of the huge rookie contract that comes with it. The Lions had the No. 20 pick to offer, but the Bears had No. 18, and the Lions likely weren't willing to part with two first-round picks.

The Lions are trying to rebuild their talent base after the NFL's first 0-16 season, and they've said repeatedly that they plan to do that through the draft. You don't build through the draft by giving up that much or more for one player, even if he's an established Pro Bowl quarterback.

That's even more risky than drafting a quarterback first overall. Stafford isn't a known quantity like Cutler is, but he's the same type of strong-armed passer.

And if the Lions are going to acquire a quarterback, whether it's a veteran or a rookie, they must have the ability to surround him with enough talent to give him a chance.


GREEN BAY PACKERS

Tory Humphrey earned a reprieve from the Packers, though at a lower pay rate.

Green Bay re-signed the oft-injured tight end April 6 to a one-year contract for the minimum salary of $460,000.

Humphrey returned to the team with which he has been the last four years after the Packers didn't offer him a one-year tender of $1.01 million as a restricted free agent.

He is coming off playing a full 16-game season for the first time in his career. He missed the entire 2007 season because of a broken leg suffered on the first day of training camp.

Humphrey, originally signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted
free agent out of Central Michigan in 2005, has been touted as an athletic tight end that can stretch the field and also is a reliable blocker, but he has yet to fulfill the promise.

He had only 11 catches for 162 yards and no touchdowns last season, splitting backup duties with rookie Jermichael Finley behind Donald Lee.

Although Lee has been the team's starter the last two seasons after replacing mainstay Bubba Franks, his drop in production in 2008 could signal a promotion this year for Finley, a highly productive player in college who didn't settle in as a pro until late last season.

The Packers typically have three tight ends on the 53-man roster. The third spot would come down to Humphrey, young prospect Evan Moore and possibly a drafted player this year.

The 6-foot-6 Moore stood out in training camp last year as an undrafted rookie from Stanford but suffered a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game.



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