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Diabetic Cutler back to full strength after weight loss

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Jay Cutler's blood sugars are down, his spirits are up and his fastball is back.

The Denver Broncos' third-year quarterback said Wednesday during the team's passing camp that he feels like his old, strong self and a new man now that he's got his Type 1 diabetes under control thanks to an insulin pump and a change in his diet.

Cutler lost 35 pounds and some zip on his frozen rope throws last season but didn't heed the warning signs, including constant fatigue, unexplained weight loss, extreme thirst and frequent urination, until team medical personnel noticed a high blood sugar reading in routine tests in March and sent him to a diabetes specialist.

Eight weeks later, "I've got everything back," Cutler said.

The zip on his throws, the strength in his shoulders, his vigor, his cheeriness, his swagger.

"He has all that strength back and you see the ball is coming, it is stronger," wide receiver Glenn Martinez said. "You can see the energy level is higher, too. ... You see a more confident player. People thought he would be down and out and he isn't."

Cutler said he won't wear his $5,000-plus insulin pump during games for fear he would get hit in his abdomen, crushing the contraption and maybe sending an overdose of the hormone into his belly.

"I doubt it's been tested" like that, Cutler said.

Cutler said he hasn't had any trouble adjusting to a less fatty diet as part of his treatment.

He said this camp has been a good test for how he's going to manage his condition during competition, although he won't really get a good feel for how his body responds in extreme heat and exertion until training camp begins in late July.

So far, he hasn't had any high or low blood sugar episodes during drills.

"I feel fine. I feel like I did last year in camp, so I'm doing fine," said the 6-foot-3 quarterback whose weight plummeted from 238 to 203 during the season last year.

"My blood levels are pretty steady right now. Everything's fine. I feel fine at practice. I haven't been too high or low, so it's been a good, dry run. I don't really anticipate any problems coming in the future, though."

Other professional athletes who dealt with diabetes and had successful careers include NFL quarterback Wade Wilson; tennis stars Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King, Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr., NHL star Bobby Clarke, baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, and boxing greats Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Robinson.

As long as Cutler manages his disease through exercise, medication and diet, there's no medical reason he wouldn't be able to continue performing at the NFL level. He'll have to monitor his blood glucose levels during games and drink some Gatorade if his sugars drop too low or take a shot of insulin if they skyrocket.

About 21 million Americans have diabetes, meaning their bodies cannot properly turn blood sugar into energy. Either they don't produce enough insulin or don't use it correctly. With the Type 1 form that Cutler has, the body's immune system attacks insulin-producing pancreatic cells, so that patients require insulin injections to survive. It usually, but not always, strikes in childhood.

2007 Statistics
Atts: 467

Comps: 297

Yards: 3,497

TDs/INTs: 20/14

Cutler, the 11th pick in the 2006 draft, threw for nearly 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns last season but the Broncos missed the playoffs for a second straight year. It was obvious as the season wore on that his arm strength wasn't what it was his rookie year, when he started the final five weeks of the season.

In the weight room, he couldn't lift as much, and when he and teammates Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler gathered in Atlanta over the winter to work out together, Cutler said there were times he couldn't get out of bed in the morning he was so exhausted.

"I'd wake up tired. I'd go to sleep tired. It didn't matter how much I slept or what I ate, I was always tired, feeling bad," Cutler said. "It just feels good to be back to my old self and I'm happy to be out here. I'm enjoying it."

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley said Cutler's return to health means the receivers had better take heed: "I see a lot more energy with him. He seems a lot stronger. A lot more confident. He's already had a strong enough arm. Now it's going to be even stronger. I'll have to wear a couple of pair of gloves."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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