Jay Cutler’s knee is steadily improving, but he still isn’t sure if he can keep up with a pack of five and six year olds at an upcoming charity event. That same name knee was a key factor in the demise of the Bears during their 21-14 NFC Championship game loss to the Packers, and it nearly broke the Internet.

Cutler left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury that was later revealed to be a Grade two MCL tear. Within minutes keyboard warriors around the Interwebs ran to Twitter to express their outrage. Cutler’s crime was not having the mental or physical ability to absorb the pressure of such a high-profile position in a hard-nosed town like Chicago.

What escalated the bullying–both cyber and otherwise–is that it was far more than just the typical incoherent rambling from inebriated fans who staggered home after three hours in the upper deck. Led by Maurice Jones-Drew, Cutler’s peers called him out in 140 characters or less, resulting in reports of tears in the locker room.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the barbs were thrown following his injury 10 weeks ago, Cutler admitted that the criticism wasn’t easy to hear. The immediate support he received from teammates like Brian Urlacher, Olin Kreutz, Greg Olsen, and head coach Lovie Smith helped get the 27-year-old through a rough time.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

“I was gone, and I stayed away from it all,” Cutler said. “But I can’t say it didn’t bother me that people questioned my toughness and desire to play.

“I think I’ve been through a lot here in Chicago, and I would have loved to play.”

As for active players who railed against him, Cutler said, “They can think what they want.”

With some sober second thought, most sensible critics pulled back their arrows a bit when the official diagnosis on Cutler’s knee came down, including us. But he remains a quiet, isolated figure in a position that demands leadership. No matter how many bad throws or interceptions they make, we can muster at least an ounce of support for a quarterback if he displays that proverbial field general mentality.

This is why we like our quarterbacks to be loud and demonstrative on the field, and when a passer like Cutler doesn’t visually demonstrate his leadership as much as others, something seems amiss. Does this automatically mean Cutler is a poor leader? Certainly not. None of us are in that huddle.

But when that same quiet, unassuming front continues on the bench during a dire time and results in sulking like a six-year-old girl, there’s a greater mental fracture. Physically, Cutler is fine, but mentally he still has some questions to answer.