Coach praises Jay Cutler's leadership

Not only does Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith believe Jay Cutler is tougher than some perceived after his early exit from the NFC Championship Game, but Smith believes Cutler actually is a great leader.

"First off, guys always watch you -- in the classroom, on the practice field and of course your play on game day. And they like what they've seen from him in that sense," Smith wrote as part of a Q&A on ChicagoBears.com.

"Jay is a tough guy, and the quarterback of the Chicago Bears should be a tough guy. The number of hits Jay took this past season, our guys saw that he constantly got up, didn't complain, and took responsibility for what was happening with our offense. To me, that's a leader."

Several players from around the league joined the chorus of critics who believed Cutler bailed on his team in the conference championship game when he left in the third quarter. It was later revealed Cutler sprained the MCL in his left knee.

Smith also said Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher already has a Hall of Fame résumé.

"I don't think there's any doubt," Smith said. "He's the face of the franchise here for a good reason. He's been [defensive] MVP of the league.

"I think it would help for us to be able to win a championship with him. But his body of work is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame. He's one of the [best] all-time players to play the game. Judging him against other great linebackers, I'd say that Brian is deserving."