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With diabetes under control, Cutler ready to roll

STATELINE, Nev. -- For Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, this has been an offseason of experimentation.

No, he is not testing out any new methods of taking snaps or dropping back in the pocket or throwing the ball. Cutler's laboratory has been his body. Specifically, he is trying to figure out how it reacts to all of the variables that go with the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes.

"When you start working out, your blood sugar drops a little bit and you've just got to monitor it because it could get really low and then bad things could happen," he said. "So we've been just experimenting with it, just seeing what happens, what I can do and what I can't do."

To date, Cutler has not had any problems since being diagnosed with the disease three months ago. He certainly looked like the picture of health this week while taking part in the American Century Championship Golf Tournament.

But that wasn't the case last October, when Cutler -- who had carried between 230 and 235 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame since his rookie season in 2006 -- began to notice a sudden and dramatic loss of weight and energy. In one week, he dropped eight pounds. Thereafter, he was losing two or three pounds per week before bottoming out at 202.

Despite starting all 16 games, Cutler knew something was wrong. Very wrong.

"I was fatigued all the time," he said. "There wasn't a lot of zip on my passes. I couldn't lift, I couldn't run. I mean, I was so tired.

"I didn't know if I had it (as a player anymore). I was thinking it was just the grind of the season. In college, I never lost weight. I know this is a different level, but ... it was tough. It was a tough time."

In April, after a team-administered physical examination before the start of the Broncos' offseason workouts, a blood test revealed the cause of Cutler's issues. Within a week after his first insulin injection, he noticed favorable results. Now, Cutler is back up to 232 pounds, feeling strong and ready for training camp.

"I'm excited," he said. "We've got my health under control. I'm back to what I'm used to (as far as my) strength and my zip on the ball."

"He's looked great," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who also is playing in the tournament. "He's been going for the last month, just like he came in as a young guy."

Cutler has an insulin pump that acts as a pancreas, providing the doses he needs through a catheter, although he isn't wearing it while playing golf and he won't wear it when he's on the football field.

When not wearing the pump, Cutler gives himself daily injections of insulin, a long-lasting form in the morning to cover him for the entire day. He takes a fast-acting form after a meal.

"It takes time to figure out your body and how you react to insulin, how you react to different foods," he said. "That's kind of been the biggest thing in the last couple of months -- how much insulin I do need, what happens when I work out, if I need to take insulin at all. It's a learning process."

So is playing quarterback. Since the start of offseason workouts, Cutler has been heavily focused on what he needs to do to improve his performance. Last season, he threw for 3,497 yards and 20 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. His passer rating was 88.1.

Cutler knows he can perform much better, especially now that the Broncos have upgraded their offensive line by making talented tackle Ryan Clady their first-round draft pick.

"It's just (working on) the mental side," Cutler said. "I can make all the throws, I can do all that. I've sat down with the coaches, and we went over every throw that I made last year, the good and the bad ones, and just talked about them -- what I was thinking, where I should have gone (with the ball). That's kind of where we've been concentrating on."

Entering his third NFL season after joining the Broncos as a first-round draft pick from Vanderbilt, Cutler faces growing pressure to have a big season -- the kind of year that can get his team into the playoffs.

"Every quarterback has that pressure going into his third year," Shanahan said. "You feel comfortable with the offensive system, the players. The pressure on any quarterback or any head coach in the third year is that you've got to perform. You've got to play well. That just goes with the territory."

Cutler has no intention of allowing diabetes to alter his approach to the game. He intends to continue to be the fiery competitor he has been for as long as he has played football. He has rapidly gained a reputation for trash-talking, which separates him from most of the league's other quarterbacks. And Cutler vows to talk as much trash as ever, particularly if any opponent dares to talk trash to him.

He also has no intention of using diabetes as an excuse. He doesn't want or need anyone's sympathy or understanding. As far as Cutler is concerned, he should be treated no different than any of his teammates or any other NFL quarterback. He must meet the challenge of performing at the highest possible level every time he takes the field.

"If I throw an interception or I fumble a snap or we lose a game, I don't want people to say, 'Hey, his (blood-sugar) levels might be low,' " Cutler said. "That's done and over with. I've got that all under control. I'm just like every guy out there."

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