The first course is devoured by Cutler

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The first course is devoured by Cutler
Rookie quarterback soaks in opening week with Broncos

By Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
May 20, 2006

ENGLEWOOD - A group of Denver Broncos rookies piled into a car and went to Earls Restaurant the Meadows near Park Meadows Mall for a get-acquainted bonding session Monday.

An all-for-one, one-for-all vibe permeated the meal, a feeling no one was above anyone else and they were starting from ground zero.

Until the paycheck arrived.

One for all took on a whole different meaning when it came to the decision about who would be whipping out the checkbook.

"That would be Mr. Cutler," tight end Tony Scheffler said with a chuckle Friday. "I guess he does have a few, what do you want to say, responsibilities as the No. 1 pick. But he did foot the bill."

It's only the first time Jay Cutler, quarterback and 11th selection in the NFL draft, will have to demonstrate he's a money ballplayer during his time with the Broncos.

The team believes it has its future meal ticket, and while four passing-camp practices isn't enough to gauge whether that opinion is justified, Cutler did nothing in his first week as a pro to convince the team otherwise.

"Jay comes from a throwing background, so he picks things up very quickly," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said after observing the former Vanderbilt player through the week.

"There's a lot of guys who -haven't been in a throwing system where it takes them a while to get used to the drop-backs and reads. But he's a four-year starter. He's had a lot of reps through the years against good competition. So he's further ahead than most players would be at this point."

Cutler, too, thinks his time in college has helped smooth his transition.

Having often played under duress, Cutler already was well- versed in getting rid of the ball quickly. The increased speed of the game now makes that a necessity.

But that doesn't mean Cutler wasn't overwhelmed like any other first-year player when he was handed a thick playbook Monday night and had to be prepared for his initial practice Tuesday.

"The first day was a little bit rough," he said. "I couldn't even call a play, really."

That has improved with more on-field work and exposure to the playbook.

"I feel like I'm coming along well, throwing the ball into some tight spots and making some good reads," Cutler said.

The rookie was given a shell playbook last month after the draft that gave him a glimpse into the formations and terminology but no specific calls.

The second volume included everything in the offensive repertoire that will be installed in training camp in July, minus the team's nickel passing packages, including protections and overall offensive theories.

"We're putting in a lot of plays - 30, 40 or 50 pass plays, a lot of different concepts and seeing a lot of different defenses - so it's moving along pretty quick," Cutler said. "You just have to study."

One aspect that hasn't been problematic has been Cutler's exposure to the team's veterans.

Linebacker Keith Burns, one of the team's biggest pranksters and longest-tenured players, introduced himself to Cutler earlier in the week by telling him he was winning Super Bowls while the youngster was "probably getting ready for the prom."

But Burns acknowledged the real fun with Cutler can wait.

"He's young and he's got a lot on his plate right now, so I'll let him eat a little bit," Burns said. "I'll probably give him a lot of (grief) later."

It's something Cutler expects, too, jokingly adding he already has been practicing the Vanderbilt fight song.

"They're getting used to us and we're getting used to them," he said. "And once they feel a bit more comfortable, I'm sure they have a few surprises in store for us."

Only training camp can begin to demonstrate how many surprises Cutler has in him. For now, Cutler is conceding he's behind Jake Plummer and Bradlee Van Pelt, and while admitting the Broncos system is complicated, he believes he could push them, nothing more, in the short term.

But as things stand now, it's all about survival. Cutler hasn't even gotten to see the city or secured a place to live.

Scheffler borrowed an oft-repeated quote from tight ends coach Tim Brewster during the week that aptly applies to all rookies at this stage: "Eat or be eaten."

"That explains it all at this level," Scheffler said.

It could be worse, though.

Cutler could have paid for someone else's meals before getting a whiff of his signing bonus. But today, it's on Plummer's dime. Cutler is expected to go to his counterpart's house for a barbecue, demonstrating again his ability to learn quickly.

SMITH, TEXANS TO TALK: The Broncos gave assistant general manager Rick Smith permission to interview in Houston for the Texans' general manager vacancy.

While the Houston job probably wouldn't provide Smith with ultimate authority on personnel matters, the Broncos view the job as a promotion and won't stand in his way if he receives an offer.

Smith has been with the Broncos for 10 years in coaching and personnel.



http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/nfl/article/0,2777,DRMN_23918_4713932,00.html
 
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