Pro football

McCown making most of chance with Cutler injured

2013-11-14T17:17:00Z 2013-11-14T21:16:28Z McCown making most of chance with Cutler injuredAndrew Seligman AP Sports Writer nwitimes.com
November 14, 2013 5:17 pm  • 

LAKE FOREST, Ill. | Given the path he followed, it would be perfectly understandable if Bears quarterback Josh McCown was feeling rejuvenated.

The veteran backup has played well filling in for the injured Jay Cutler, and he'll get another opportunity when the Ravens (4-5) visit Soldier Field on Sunday.

"Sometimes everything is life is just about opportunities and when things happen," McCown said.

Right now, good things are happening for him, if not the Bears (5-4).

They've dropped four of six following a 3-0 start amid mounting injuries, with Cutler (high left ankle sprain) and cornerback Charles Tillman (torn right triceps) going down in last week's 21-19 loss to NFC North leader Detroit.

Cutler was wearing a hard cast Thursday that coach Marc Trestman called "precautionary" to stabilize the ankle.

He said it swelled up Monday.

Cutler injured the ankle in the first half against the Lions. The Bears finally turned to McCown for their final possession, and he nearly pulled off the comeback, throwing a touchdown to Brandon Marshall.

The two-point conversion failed and the Bears came away empty-handed after a surprising win at Green Bay the previous week.

But on a positive note for Chicago, McCown delivered again, just as he did at Washington on Oct. 20 after Cutler injured his groin. And just as he did against the Packers.

In three games, McCown has completed 42 of 70 passes for 538 yards. He has four touchdowns without an interception, and he has the Bears believing they're in capable hands until Cutler returns.

Considering the route he's followed, that's pretty impressive.

A third-round draft pick out of Sam Houston State by Arizona in 2002, McCown was coaching high school football in North Carolina when the Bears signed him late in the 2011 season. Back then, Caleb Hanie struggled after Cutler broke his thumb, and McCown wound up making two starts.

He got released by the Bears the following August and rejoined them in November. But with Jason Campbell backing up Cutler, he did not get into a game last season.

Until now, his biggest contribution with the Bears might have been his connection with Cutler. And if that's the case, McCown's just fine with it.

He understood he probably wasn't going to get much playing time, so the question in his mind was this.

"How can I add value to our team?" he said. "I can add value by being a good teammate not only to Jay but to all the guys. And to just be able to help in any way possible but then also to Jay because he plays the same position, because I can be another set of eyes. From that standpoint, that's the way I saw it. It's just value to the team as far as trying to help us win a ballgame."

It's not that McCown didn't want more. It's just that he understood his spot.

He had come to grips with the fact that he probably wasn't going to be a starter, yet he also knew he had to be ready.

"Josh is in a great spot right now," backup quarterback Jordan Palmer said. "He's got a really strong arm; it's not because of the arm strength. He's very accurate; it's not because of accuracy. If it's because of anything, it's because of his character, because he's prepared for the last 12 years the same way. He's worked the last 12 years the same way. He's been preparing for an opportunity. He's got one right now and he's taking advantage of it."

It helps that he has a coach in Trestman who has a history of success with quarterbacks and a system that fits his skillset. McCown might not have Cutler's rocket arm, but he makes the right reads. He's steady. He commands the huddle.

He also has more weapons to work with than he did in 2011, with receivers Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett in the mix.

Now, McCown's taking advantage of his opportunity. He's hearing the kind words and he's guarding against what Trestman calls the "success flu," when the praise gets to a player's head.

"To be playing, and to be playing with the guys I'm playing with, and in this system, I couldn't ask for anything more," McCown said. "So I'm very appreciative of everything that's going on right now."

NOTES: Bennett sat out Thursday's practice with a sore ankle. "We're hopeful that a day off the ankle will give him a little relief and he'll be back at it," Trestman said. ... DE Shea McClellin (hamstring), DT Jay Ratliff (groin) and LS Patrick Mannelly (calf) remained sidelined.

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