CHICAGO IL - JANUARY 23: Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears on the sideline in the third quarter after leaving the game with an injury against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23 2011 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
By now you've almost assuredly heard Jay Cutler being torn to shreds, a sound that's mostly a loud rip with a softer pout behind it. Depending on who you ask, the way Cutler left the game with his hurt MCL either makes him a giant wuss or a little wuss.
There's a culture in the NFL that people like you and I are not really equipped to understand. Where we might call out of work for a cold, these guys won't call out if they've got Ebola. It's considered a sign of weakness to leave the game for anything less than a broken spine, a detached limb and finger-induced bleeding of the eyes. You need look no further to confirm that than the reaction to Cutler's injury among players.
Never mind that Cutler was yanked from the game by the coaching staff, who saw an injured, ineffective quarterback damaging their chances to win. Never mind that not every injury causes you to fall down and shoot ichor from your kneecaps. Cutler's a WUSS!
The culture around the NFL demands that you sacrifice your body. You may think players should tough it out more, but the odds are much better for you to enjoy your old age without crippling ailments and a brain rotting away inside your skull. These guys are making millions, yes, but that doesn't mean they should spend the last thirty years of their lives suffering.
How does this relate to the Falcons, you ask? Glad you did. Follow after the jump.
As I see it, the Falcons in 2010 were one of the smartest teams in the NFL, injury-wise. In 2009, not so much.
You'll recall that last season, Michael Turner got hurt. The Falcons, perhaps spurred by the fact that Turner could kill them if he wanted to, inserted him back into the lineup. He got hurt again. This happened more than once.
It was not a smart way to handle the situation, but I think Atlanta brass wised up to that in short order. Their approach in 2010 was enough to make Jay Cutler limp, headphones on and sulk evident, to the Georgia Dome seeking a warm welcome.
Look no further than the way the Falcons handled practice this season, giving guys like Roddy White and Curtis Lofton only limited reps to keep them fresh and avoid aggravating their injuries. Or look to Peria Jerry, who I truly believe received minimal reps throughout the season because he was still recovering from his injury. The Falcons were reluctant to wear him out, and were smart enough to get Corey Peters to take some of the snaps Jerry could not.
There's a balance to be had between playing and not jeopardizing the future of your players. I'm hopeful the Falcons have found it.