Now the Bears quarterback says it feels like Easter as the team continues preparation for the 2012 season at Olivet Nazarene University. The holidays will be over soon enough and it will be time to get to football that matters.
"It's like Easter now," Cutler said. "It's fun. We've got a lot of weapons. Even the (undrafted) free-agent receivers we've got, they're getting better and better and they're asking questions. Phil Emery and the scouting department, you can definitely tell the difference in talent in the three years I was here to (now). Even the guys that didn't get drafted can play football."
Cutler and the starters don't project to see much playing time against the Broncos. Typically under coach Lovie Smith, the starters get a series or two in the exhibition opener. He likes their work to finish on a positive note, so if the offense can put together a scoring drive on its first possession, that could be it.
Tice confirmed what has been known for nearly a week — that J'Marcus Webbis the left tackle right now. But Tice intimated the move was made because the Bears needed Chris Williams to take some reps away from Gabe Carimi at right tackle while Carimi's knee was sore. Williams hasn't been back to share first-team reps with the starters at left tackle since. From the looks of things, the competition is over.
However, Webb is far from overwhelming Tice with his play to this point. He'll need to step forward in the exhibition games. If he doesn't, then what? If the Bears thought Williams was a solution at left tackle, he would be there. It's Webb or bust, with the Bears hoping it's not Cutler being busted.
"I thought one guy would separate himself and really just jump out there," Tice said. "I don't think that has really happened. So, for me let's keep status quo and see where the games take us. I'm not in a rush to change for change's sake and we're hoping that a guy in his third year, Webb, will step up and mature as a football player and as a person and get better and show us that this means something to him."
Clearly, Tice was sending a message to Webb. It looked like he sent one to Williams, too, when Williams was removed from the order he had been working in practice after an exchange with Tice. Tice declined to comment after practice.
On the field, the offense finished in the two-minute drill. The defense had been excelling in closing periods and that changed, particularly for the first team as it moved efficiently to the end zone. It's still a work in progress and the game with the Broncos will provide just a glimpse. But the Bears say they are getting closer.
"I don't think anybody's really where they want to be," Cutler said. "You always want to get better. We're making mistakes out here. I'm making mistakes out here. So there are things we've got to clean up. Once we get into that third preseason game and really start game-planning ... we'll really get a gauge of where we're at."