Dol­phins don’t plan to keep Jay Cut­ler on side­line for long.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

DAVIE, Fla. — New Mi­ami Dol­phins quar­ter­back Jay Cut­ler won’t play in the team’s ex­hi­bi­tion opener Thurs­day, but look for him to be start­ing soon enough.

“He didn’t come out of re­tire­ment to stand on the side­line,” Coach Adam Gase said.

Cut­ler missed Mon­day’s prac­tice be­cause it took place as he landed in South Florida to sign a $10 mil­lion, one-year con­tract. Cut­ler, 34, de­cided to de­lay the start of his net­work TV ca­reer for the chance to re­place Ryan Tan­nehill and be reunited with Gase, his for­mer of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor with the Chicago Bears.

“A sit­u­a­tion like this doesn’t come along very of­ten,” said Cut­ler, wear­ing a polo shirt bear­ing the Dol­phins logo. “I know Adam very well; I know the sys­tem. And you’re talking about a play­off team with a lot of re­ally, re­ally good play­ers and a lot of po­ten­tial.”

Cut­ler is ex­pected to leapfrog long­time Dol­phins backup Matt Moore for the start­ing job while Tan­nehill re­mains out with a left knee in­jury that likely will side­line him for the en­tire sea­son.

Gase reached out to Cut­ler shortly af­ter Tan­nehill was hurt Thurs­day and said the for­mer Bear needed no per­suad­ing to launch a come­back. But Cut­ler likened the con­ver­sa­tions with Gase to col­lege re­cruit­ing, say­ing the de­ci­sion to re­turn was dif­fi­cult.

He parted with the Bears in March af­ter eight sea­sons, and was then hired by Fox as an an­a­lyst to work in its No. 2 NFL broad­cast booth.

“The last four months I’ve been in a dif­fer­ent mind­set, get­ting ready for the Fox deal,” Cut­ler said. “I was pretty good with where I was in my life; I was around the kids a lot and felt pretty con­tent. So I went back and forth on this. My wife talked me into it more than any­body else. … I think she got tired of me be­ing around the house.”

In 2015, Cut­ler had a ca­reer-best quar­ter­back rat­ing while with Gase, who then joined the Dol­phins. What will Cut­ler’s learn­ing curve be with the of­fen­sive scheme?

“I’m pretty sure he’s al­ready got it,” Gase said. “He’s good.”

Ramp­ing up Cut­ler’s arm strength may take longer, Gase said.

“I’m sure he wasn’t in the back­yard throw­ing a hun­dred balls a day,” the coach said.

Cut­ler said his two sons and pickup bas­ket­ball games at his alma mater, Van­der­bilt, helped him stay in shape. He missed time last year with a sprained right thumb and a labrum in­jury that re­quired sea­son-end­ing right shoul­der surgery in De­cem­ber, but said he’s healthy now and con­fi­dent his arm will be fine.

“It’ll come back pretty quickly,” Cut­ler said. “I’m not wor­ried about the throw­ing part. Get­ting used to the guys and the more de­tailed stuff, that’s what we’re go­ing to have to hit the fast-for­ward but­ton on.”

The ac­qui­si­tion of Cut­ler has po­ten­tial to di­vide a locker room where Moore en­joys strong sup­port, es­pe­cially af­ter he helped Mi­ami clinch a play­off berth while Tan­nehill was side­lined in De­cem­ber.

But Gase is pop­u­lar with his play­ers and said he ex­plained to them why he wanted Cut­ler.

“I was very up­front with ev­ery­thing,” Gase said. “We felt this gave us an op­por­tu­nity to have two re­ally good quar­ter­backs on our team. We wanted to make sure if some­thing hap­pened, we weren’t go­ing to have a falloff. I think our guys un­der­stand that.”

That in­cludes Moore. He said he still con­sid­ers him­self a con­tender for the start­ing job af­ter a drama-free con­ver­sa­tion with Gase about the need to sign Cut­ler.

“It was very sim­ple and straight­for­ward,” he said. “It wasn’t very Hol­ly­wood. And I get it.”

Re­ceiver Kenny Stills said that while Moore is “our guy,” there’s no quar­ter­back con­tro­versy among the play­ers.

“We’re con­fi­dent in the peo­ple up­stairs to do the right thing for this team,” Stills said.

Still to be de­ter­mined is how quickly Cut­ler can shake off the rust and lin­ger­ing doubts about his at­ti­tude, tough­ness and de­ci­sion-mak­ing, all of which were of­ten ques­tioned in Chicago.

He went 51-51 as a Bears starter. Among his team­mates was guard Jer­mon Bushrod, now with Mi­ami.

“I know the guy,” Bushrod said. “I’ve seen how he is in the hud­dle. I’ve seen how he is in the locker room. The mes­sage por­trayed by some of the ma­jor broad­cast­ing net­works isn’t what we see or feel.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to have things to say. But if you win games, no­body says any­thing.”

The Bears went 9-23 the past two years, but Coach John Fox said he was happy with Cut­ler both sea­sons and ex­cited for him to get an op­por­tu­nity in Mi­ami.

“He was a smart, tough guy who worked hard,” Fox said. “I know ev­ery­body here wishes him noth­ing but the best.”

Cut­ler’s come­back came about af­ter Tan­nehill’s left knee buck­led a week into train­ing camp. Tan­nehill de­cided against surgery af­ter miss­ing the fi­nal four games of last sea­son with two sprained lig­a­ments in his knee, but the lat­est in­jury likely will re­quire an op­er­a­tion.

Tan­nehill stood near mid­field Mon­day watch­ing prac­tice, wear­ing a brace on his left knee and con­vers­ing with the coach­ing staff and quar­ter­backs.

“We were talking about the stages you go through,” Gase said. “We were both say­ing we keep go­ing out of order — from de­nial to anger to de­pressed, and back to de­nial. It’s tough.”

There’s al­ready spec­u­la­tion about Tan­nehill and Cut­ler beyond this sea­son, but the Dol­phins’ new quar­ter­back isn’t wor­ried about 2018. He’s wor­ried about to­day.

“I just want to get to the next meet­ing and fig­ure out where the din­ing room is,” Cut­ler said. “Then we’ll start run­ning the of­fense and learn­ing some guys’ names.”

AP/LYNNE SLADKY

Mi­ami Dol­phins quar­ter­back Jay Cut­ler goes through drills with his new team Tues­day. The Dol­phins signed Cut­ler, who had re­tired in the off­sea­son, to a one-year con­tract Sun­day.

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