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Dane Sanzenbacher has experienced the "wrath" of Jay Cutler several times this season, but the Chicago Bears rookie said the sometimes tough treatment by his quarterback only makes him and his fellow receivers better.
"He absolutely doesn't take it easy on me," Sanzenbacher said Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "You're going to get the wrath of it every now and then. [I got it] at least three times [Sunday night against the Vikings]. It was all warranted.
"Jay has been great since I got here. I think I was surprised by how patient he was with me at the beginning. I think it's helped. He's a tough critic. He's tough on all the guys, but it makes us better in the long run. But I think he has been one of the most helpful guys for me personally in my development."
An undrafted free agent out of Ohio State, Sanzenbacher has emerged as one of Cutler's favorite targets this season. He caught his team-leading third touchdown pass on a 13-yard connection with Cutler in the Bears' 39-10 victory over the Vikings on Sunday. He has 17 catches, tied for third on the team, and has been targeted 30 times, also third-best on the Bears.
Cutler has been a polarizing figure at times for what some perceive as poor body language on the sideline and an often prickly demeanor, but Sanzenbacher said his role as a leader is unquestioned.
"I can see where some of [the criticism] comes from," Sanzenbacher said. "I can see guys get the sideline shots and the body language and whatnot. But I think inside the locker room he's been a great leader. There's no question he is one of the leaders of this team, and there's a reason why he is one of the captains of this team."
Sanzenbacher, who led the Big Ten in receiving yards and touchdown catches last season, said he didn't set out to lead the Bears in a statistical category, just earn a spot on the team.
"I didn't really have expectations of a number I wanted to hit, that I wanted to lead the receiving corps in touchdowns or lead this," Sanzenbacher said. "I just wanted to come in and first of all make the team and kind of evolve from there. I think at this point it's doing whatever I can to contribute and stay on the field and earn the trust of your teammates. I think first and foremost when you come in as a rookie, you want to earn that trust. I think that's what I work on every day."