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NFC Notebook

After exit, additional hits

Cutler (knee) leaves, hears it from all sides

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was largely ineffective, completing 6 of 14 passes for 80 yards with an interception. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was largely ineffective, completing 6 of 14 passes for 80 yards with an interception. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / January 24, 2011

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CHICAGO — Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was knocked from all corners of the NFL world on Twitter after he was removed from yesterday’s NFC Championship game with a knee injury.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher, who spoke to Cutler briefly on the sideline during the game, vigorously came to his quarterback’s defense afterward.

“I just wanted to make sure he was OK,’’ Urlacher said. “If he wasn’t in there, it’s because he couldn’t be in there . . . It wasn’t because he wasn’t tough enough to be in there, it’s because he was hurt. That’s why he was not in the game.

“He’s a tough son of a [gun], hell yeah he is. He practices every day. You’ve see the hits he’s taken his career. He gets up, he doesn’t complain, he just goes out there and competes and tries to win the game. If he couldn’t be in there, it’s because he was hurt, because he couldn’t go and probably thought he was hurting the team if he couldn’t be in there. That’s why.’’

When told of the remarks on Twitter made by Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, among others, Urlacher became upset.

“I don’t give a [expletive] about players around the league sitting, watching our game at home,’’ Urlacher said. “It’s easy to talk [expletive] about someone when you’re sitting on your couch watching their game. That’s what I’m saying. I don’t understand it, I don’t get it. Let them sprain their MCL or do whatever he did to his knee and then get back in the game. See if they can do that. See how well they run the ball, or whoever the other guy is [Rhodes], see how well he does at whatever position he plays. I don’t agree with it. It’s easy to write that stuff on the Internet.’’

Bears coach Lovie Smith said the decision to remove Cutler was not made by the player.

“For us, Jay hurt his knee, he couldn’t go,’’ said Smith. “Team doctors and all, they were the ones that really made that decision. Of course Jay, he’s like everybody else, disappointed he couldn’t go out and play and help his team win.’’

It’s unknown when Cutler hurt his knee, but he was ineffective throughout the first half, completing 6 of 14 passes for 80 yards with an interception. Cutler had trouble finding his key targets as tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Devin Hester and Earl Bennett had zero receptions in the first half.

“We missed our corner route that first series with Devin,’’ Cutler said. “We missed a few things. Our defense played a heck of a game and gave us a shot at the end.

“I was disappointed that I couldn’t give it a shot. I was going to keep playing, but they made the decision that giving Todd [Collins] a shot would be better.’’

We meet again With the Steelers beating the Jets in the AFC Championship game, it sets up a rematch between the Packers and Steelers of one of the wildest games of the 2009 season.

The Steelers won, 37-36, at Heinz Field when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found receiver Mike Wallace for a 19-yard touchdown as time expired. Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers combined for 886 passing yards and six touchdowns.

The Packers have been installed as 2 1/2-point favorites for the Super Bowl.

Future uncertain Collins, a 39-year-old Walpole, Mass., native, said he suffered a stinger during his second series and could have returned, but Smith decided to go with Caleb Hanie.

Collins, a second-round pick of the Bills out of Michigan in 1995, completed his 16th season with his fourth team. It was his third postseason appearance (1996, 2007).

“I think I have an idea of what I want to do,’’ Collins said. “Everything is so uncertain next year with the labor problem and everything, but we’ll see. I’ll see how I feel in the next week or whatever.’’

Collins will lament not doing more to help the Bears reach the Super Bowl.

“Absolutely, especially at the point in the career that I’m in,’’ he said.

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