Fan and media reaction came swift when Jay Cutler sat on the bench for most of the second half of Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. The Bears' medical staff escorted Cutler off the field before the end of the first half; and, after a single, futile drive to open the third quarter, Coach Lovie Smith made the decision to play backup Todd Collins. (Collins would subsequently injure his shoulder, necessitating the use of third-string emergency quarterback Caleb Hanie.) Twitter erupted with accusations about Cutler's ability to play through pain, his leadership skills, and his willingness to assist his understudy on the sidelines.
The Bears' decision to withhold information about Cutler's prognosis didn't help matters. FOX cameras showed the Bears' medical staff looking at the quarterback's knee on the sidelines, leaving fans and media to speculate on the severity, if any, of the injury. Further shots of the sideline caught Cutler riding a stationary bike and standing upright, providing enough evidence for Monday-morning doctors to conclude that Cutler wasn't so much injured as he was giving up on his team.
Criticism came from all corners. The usual ESPN talking heads chalked this up as further proof that Cutler isn't a "winner." Current and former NFL stars derided Cutler for letting his team down in the biggest game of the year, and made sure to remind us that they would have to be taken off on stretchers to keep them from playing. And, in a particularly embarrassing moment for Chicagoans, members of the understanding and compassionate Bears fanbase took to burning Cutler jerseys outside of Soldier Field after the game.
Of course, the Bears revealed on Monday that Cutler suffered a grade II sprain (i.e. tear) of his MCL. While the injury alone is sufficient enough to hamper an athlete's ability to throw a football or elude the likes of Clay Matthews, allowing Cutler to play would have put him at serious risk of cascading injuries (specifically to the ACL), if not further damaging the MCL.
At this point you're probably asking yourself, "Yeah, OK. I get what you're saying, but what does this have to do with MMA?"
Remember when Cain Velasquez left Brock Lesnar's beard a new shade of red? Remember when the Undertaker exploited an Ariel Helwani interview to shoot an angle? Remember when Vince McMahon offered Lesnar a spot at Wrestlemania? And remember when Dave Meltzer speculated about Brock's motivation to continue fighting (quote via MixedMartialArts.com)?
Quote and Brock Lesnar's "fighting spirit" after the jump.
Meltzer said on his radio show that the fight with Velasquez has changed Brock's attitude on fighting and he is at the stage in his life where he doesn't want to get injured. He's very well off financially and the business man in him apparently knows that it may be time to move on.
Meltzer also mentioned that Brock hasn't trained a single day since the Velasquez fight nor he has returned any phone calls to Dana or Zuffa about upcoming matches.
Dave pointed out if Brock was motivated, he would be right back in the gym training and bringing in new coaches with the goal of beating Cain yet he isn't doing that. He's hunting and hasn't even thought about his next fight. Lesnar apparently wants to do WrestleMania "badly" and will earn an estimated 2 million dollars for 30 minutes of work.
Meltzer later said that he never claimed that Brock wouldn't fight again and that his statements had been "blown out of proportion," but the meme that Lesnar had lost his "fighting spirit" grew to the size of Tetsuo Shima in the Neo-Tokyo Stadium.
Fight Opinion's Zack Arnold was quick to climb up and shout from the rooftops:
One of the stories that I've longed warned everyone about is the career of Brock Lesnar in the UFC. We know his history - he does something for a little while, makes some money or fame, and moves on before he gets completely exposed and runs out of sugar daddies willing to recruit him into something else. In many ways, he reminds me of having the spirit of Bruiser Brody (look him up on Google, non-wrestling fans) leaving one place after another before his welcome is warn out. Lesnar was in WWE for a few years, then he went to try out for the Minnesota Vikings, then he went to New Japan, and eventually ended up in UFC.
At first, there were indications Lesnar would get back in the swing of things quickly. Then, he decided to take a break for hunting season. ... It's a game that Dana White wants no part of. However, Mr. White should have thought of this when he signed Lesnar in the first place to a contract.
Brock Lesnar is who we thought he was - and we've been saying it for many, many years on Fight Opinion. In fact, since day one this site was created.
The funny thing about this sort of "I told you so" talk? No one bothered to hear Brock Lesnar's side of it. Here's what Lesnar told Yahoo!'s Kevin Iole at the the Ultimate Fighter media day:
"That thing just took on a life of its own," Lesnar said of the WrestleMania rumors. "I'm a fighter. There wasn't anything there. I never pursued anything, no."
"When I go dark, people have to talk about something," Lesnar said. "I don't have any control over that, nor do I really care. I'm just glad they're still talking about me. It's a funny thing. I go sit in my deer shack or my fish house and you guys (in the media) still talk about me and I don't even have to say a word."
"I have one thing in my mind for this whole thing, which is to help these kids and to improve their lives," Lesnar said. "More importantly, it's an opportunity for me to get down here and train and it's an opportunity for me to get my title back sooner rather than later. When I beat dos Santos, then I get a rematch with Velasquez and I get my (expletive) belt back. That's the way I'm looking at this."
Those don't seem like the words of a man looking for a way out of his fighting career.
It will be interesting to see if the stigma of the winter speculation will follow Lesnar through the television show and his fight with dos Santos. While everyone from his coach to his third-string backup have defended him, people are now trying to "catch" Cutler climbing up stairs or "walking at a brisk pace" as signs that Cutler's injury has been conjured to some degree. Roy Nelson kicked things off with his Ultimate Fighter conspiracy theory. Should we expect reports of Lesnar practicing the shooting star press in training?