Cutler passes praise as Bears prepare for opener

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Jay Cutler talked up his coaches and teammates, not to mention the new system.

He also shrugged off the notion that the Chicago Bears are in for another bumpy ride, starting with the opener Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

''I don't see the benefit of (being) pessimistic about it,'' Cutler said Thursday. ''So I'm going to remain optimistic. And the rest of the team is too.''

Optimism for the game against the Packers and the season as a whole is not exactly running high in Chicago with the Bears undergoing a major overhaul.

A five-win season cost former general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman their jobs. Ryan Pace and John Fox were hired to replace them and put together a roster that fits the style they're trying to implement.

On defense, it means finding players more suited to a 3-4 scheme than the 4-3 they had played. On offense, it means putting more emphasis on the run after getting a little pass-happy under Trestman the past two years.

''I think we're pretty comfortable right now, we'll see who lines up for us on Sunday,'' Cutler said.

If Cutler was feeling a little uncomfortable heading into this season, that would be understandable. As he enters his seventh year in Chicago, his long-term future has never been more up in the air.

Pace and Fox made that clear by waiting until March to announce Cutler as the starting quarterback.

Even though he completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes and threw for 3,812 yards last season, he continued to make the mistakes that have defined his career. Cutler committed a league-high 24 turnovers and tied San Diego's Philip Rivers for the lead with 18 interceptions last season.

The new regime is hoping a more balanced attack, with greater emphasis on the run, under new offensive coordinator Adam Gase will help reduce the turnovers and take some of the pressure off the quarterback, not to mention the defense.

''What we've done is we've decided we're going to correct things on film, we're going to work on it in individual, we're going to work on it in practice, we'll point out when things don't look the way we want it to look and then we'll move on,'' Gase said. ''And for us to sit there and beat everybody up over every little thing constantly - I don't know how much that really works - so we're trying a different approach here.''

Cutler praised Gase's ability to explain the system to the quarterbacks, to get them to understand why certain plays are called in certain situations.

''Just making sure we have answers, not putting us in bad positions,'' Cutler said.

Even so, he is going to be tested right from the start.

The Packers come into the season with four straight NFC North titles and their eyes on a Super Bowl championship. Even though their defense ranked 15th overall last season, it was 10th against the pass, and they have given the Bears and Cutler fits over the years.

Green Bay outscored Chicago 93-31, beating the Bears at Soldier Field for the franchise's 700th win and shredding the Monsters of the Midway 55-14 at Lambeau Field in November.

Including the postseason, they've won nine of the past 10 against Chicago and are 11-1 against Cutler. He has been picked off at least once in 11 of those 12 games and has 22 interceptions and 14 touchdowns against the Packers.

But Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said he noticed some differences in Cutler during the preseason.

''I think there's definitely some change in the pre-snap disciplines and mannerisms,'' he said. ''He looks like he's comfortable in what Adam's having him do. I think it's a good fit.''

Notes: WR Alshon Jeffery (calf) was limited in practice for the second consecutive day after being sidelined for nearly a month. WRs Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) and LB Jonathan Bostic (ankle) were also limited again, which LB Sam Acho (illness) and CB Tracy Porter (hamstring) sat out.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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