9:28 PM CDT, July 13, 2012
Perception became reality for Jay Cutler when he arrived in Chicago three years ago as the anointed savior of a Bears franchise bereft of a big-boy quarterback for ages.
Cutler initially was seen as aloof, condescending and generally unapproachable. There would be the occasional rolling of the eyes after a routine question from a reporter. And there were second-hand stories about Cutler refusing to sign an autograph or doing so reluctantly.
Those stories appear to be history as Cutler now has gone out of his way to embrace his celebrity with apparent genuine joy. We're not likely to see Cutler performing on "Dancing With the Stars" as fiance Kristin Cavallari did, but he is making progress.
Cutler has agreed to be a regular on the "Waddle & Silvy" show on WMVP-AM 1000 this fall. It appears everyone will be welcomed into the huddle with Cutler these days.
"It's nothing that I'm dreading. It's going to be a fun show," Cutler said Thursday night before a kickoff party for the show that also benefited his Jay Cutler Foundation at Bevy nightclub downtown.
"I was telling (former Bears receiver Tom) Waddle a couple of weeks ago that radio seems to be the gig. You just kind of sit there and grab a mike, take a few commercial breaks, (take some calls), talk some more and then you're pretty much out of there in an hour."
Who knows? Cutler might become engaging enough on the airwaves to be a full-time sports radio personality when his playing days are over.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "I haven't really thought about it. But it's something that I'm probably going to think about in the next two or three years."
Cutler's improved comfort level with fans and media could be related to the fact he is now surrounded by more familiar coaches and teammates, including Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates — both of whom contributed to his success with the Broncos.
"It's going to make me a lot more comfortable, and anybody a lot more comfortable," Cutler said. "It should be a fun year. But you never know."
That "never know" part is a necessary disclaimer before every NFL season. The Bears were 7-3 last year before Cutler broke his right thumb, and the team wound up 8-8. Running back Matt Forte also injured his knee late in the season and continues to haggle with management over a new contract with the Bears reporting to training camp July 25.
Cutler is confident Forte will not miss a beat, regardless of when he reports.
"I think seven days, 10 days into it, he's going to know everything," Cutler said. "You never have to worry about him. He's a guy that if you don't know what to do, he'll tell you what you're supposed to do."
Expectations for this Bears team are higher than I can recall in many years.
"We have the Colts in Game 1, and we'll move on to Game 2 after that," Cutler said. "You can't get ahead of yourself in this league. You never know who is going to be at the top at the end. Injuries play a part of it, so we'll just see how it goes."
Cutler and Cavallari are expecting their first child in the coming months. Their relationship and growing family have affected Cutler.
"I'm doing a lot of listening, which is also something I'm learning more and more about," Cutler said with a smile. "Just go with the flow and agree."
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