As the triggerman for one of this season’s most explosive offenses, Cutler will try to outgun the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. A daunting task.
But Cutler’s getting good at dealing with tall orders. In April, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for about 5-to-10 percent of the roughly 21 million Americans with the disease. As a result, Cutler monitors his blood sugar daily and maintains a fastidious diet in an effort to carefully care for his body. It's all a part of his day, as well as dealing with the mental and physical pressure of being an NFL quarterback.
This wasn’t something the 25-year-old signed up for. But it is a reality he’s trying to embrace.
“You don’t have a choice,” Cutler said when asked about dealing publicly with diabetes. “You’re in the public eye and you receive a lot of calls, a lot of e-mails, a lot of requests. I take it to heart and I enjoy it. It’s tough during the season but definitely during the offseason I get more involved. It’s just hard to do a lot of appearances and talk to people [during the season] but it’s definitely something I look forward to in the future.”
In the here and now, Cutler’s been ripping it up. In six games for the AFC West-leading Broncos, he’s thrown 12 touchdowns, just five interceptions and amassed 1,684 passing yards in leading Denver to a 4-2 start.
The third-year player from Vanderbilt has also brought a slice of bravado to the Broncos that runs counter to his outwardly reticent appearance. This week, he mentioned that he’s not a big fan of Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. Last week, he testified that he’s got a stronger arm than Denver legend John Elway.
A few diabetes sufferers have played in the NFL. The sport's already grueling, but playing with a disease that can potentially wrack and fatigue the body in even tougher. That’s what Cutler was dealing with last year when he dropped 35 pounds late in the season thanks to his as-yet undiagnosed diabetes.
“I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the season, I felt so bad,” he said. “It really takes a toll on you. It’s hard to explain to people that don’t have it or have never gone through what it’s like. It’s really tough. [This year] it’s a night and day difference. I’m 100 percent better.”
Cutler said he “had no idea” about diabetes before being diagnosed.
“It’s been rampant in my family,” said NBA legend Walt Frazier, now a New York Knicks TV analyst. “I’ve lost loved ones — aunts and uncles who had the disease. It’s devastating. Just maintaining a lifestyle is a burden. [Cutler] can prove to them that it’s not a death sentence. There are things you can do to mitigate the effects and he’s living proof of that.”
Frazier’s backcourt mate with the Knicks, Earl Monroe, has diabetes. The two men have campaigned to raise diabetes awareness. Adam Morrison of the Portland Trail Blazers is another diabetes sufferer who’s showing that an athlete can compete at his sport’s highest level.
Celtics star Ray Allen, whose young son was diagnosed with diabetes in the spring, thinks the disease's demands can actually help some excel.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“It does not have to be debilitating toward the child,” added Allen. “You can use it to motivate you to do greater things.”
For Cutler, the diagnosis came as an initial relief. It explained the ravaging hunger, the body in physical revolt, the unquenchable thirst he was feeling.
“It’s tough but you just have to come to terms with it,” he said. “I was fortunate to get diagnosed in April and have some time to adjust to it and get comfortable with it before the season started but it’s part of my everyday life now. I get up with it and I go to sleep with it. I’ve adjusted. It’s a burden at times but it’s just something that I have to deal with for the rest of my life. It’s not going to hamper me on the football field at all, though.”
Cutler may not have diabetes whipped, but he has it controlled. Now, about those Patriots …
PFT: Tom Brady, who turns 36 in August, says he has "never felt better throwing the football" and his confidence is peaking.
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