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Aaron Mueller: Tale of two faces: Hester’s game face better than Cutler’s pout

Published 8:59pm Monday, August 2, 2010

It’s no secret that NFL players have a love-hate relationship with this time of year.

On one hand, training camp is exciting. It means a clean slate, where every team is undefeated. And it finally means these guys get to head back out onto the field and do what they love.

On the other hand, the practices are long and often in grueling heat.

And when players aren’t on the field or in the weight room, they are studying the playbook and watching film. Not to mention braving the media circus and fans begging for autographs.

Some guys (see Brett Favre) make it obvious how much they detest training camp, while others are just happy to be making millions of dollars doing what they love.

I saw this firsthand this weekend when I attended Chicago Bears training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill.

Chicago’s golden boy, Jay Cutler, the Bears’ big and somewhat disappointing investment from a year ago, showed the typical swagger of a talented and praised gunslinger. But his mannerisms and attitude seemed to go beyond confidence to arrogance during the first two days of camp.

Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but I was turned off by the way he sauntered through team exercises, threw his water bottle at the feet of a water boy instead of handing it to him and jogging off the field without acknowledging fans or signing any autographs after cramming a dozen cliches into a quick two-minute media interview (seriously, he has to be one of the worst interviews, outside his coach, Lovie Smith).

The guy rarely even smiled, choosing his trademark mopey pout instead.

Now I’m not questioning the guy’s talent or effort. I was amazed at his lightning quick release, precise timing and his ability to fling the ball 40 yards downfield with a simple flick of the wrist. But Cutler was brought in to do more than throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.

The Bears gambled on their future to bring in who they thought would be a leader, the face of the franchise and a champion. If last season and the first few days of training camp this year are any indication, he might not be that guy. You’d like to see the face of your franchise smiling, joking around with teammates and giving maximum effort during camp. And I didn’t see too much of that in the first two days.

On the other side of the coin, I spent much of my time at camp watching Devin Hester. Just like Cutler, he has tremendous raw talent and athleticism. And after two inconsistent seasons at the wide receiver position, it’s obvious this year he wants to become a Pro Bowl-caliber wide out.

He wore a huge smile on his face throughout the two days I was there and wowed the crowd with his acceleration, sharp cuts and improved route running and hands. Hester didn’t see as many balls as Johnny Knox or even tight end Desmond Clark, but that didn’t keep him from giving maximum effort.

Even before camp started, Hester has been working out with former Rams Pro Bowler Isaac Bruce, who knows offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s system inside and out. And the results are starting to show even early in camp.

As a lifelong Bears fan, I’m hoping the rest of the team watches a superstar like Hester working his butt off and having fun and model after him.

Plus, I’d rather see a team full of Hester-like game faces than the droopy pout that Cutler is sporting.

Aaron Mueller is a reporter for the Niles Daily Star. He can be reached at aaron.mueller@leaderpub.com

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