Chicago didn't learn a damn thing from Jay Cutler. Or from Jake Peavy.
Nope, Chicago hasn't learned its lesson in how to support a superstar with an injury, though it seems all the more galling given that this superstar is Derrick Rose, and given that this injury is the torn ACL Rose suffered less than a year ago.
Why aren't you back yet, Derrick?
You a head case, Derrick?
Haven't learned a damn thing, Chicago. Have you?
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I'm talking to the Bulls fan base and to the Bulls organization itself, both of whom are ganging up on Rose in an effort to get him back onto the court before the season ends. Five days ago the team let it slip -- oops! -- that Rose has been cleared medically. "He can play now," a team source told ESPN.com.
That ratcheted up the hysteria from Bulls fans wondering how come, if he can play now, he isn't playing now.
It's Jay Cutler all over again. It's Jake Peavy. It's Eric Gordon and Dirk Nowitzki, too. Hell, I'll go so far as to say it's Adrian Peterson.
The lesson to be learned from all of those players -- even from Peterson, who returned fast and furious from a torn ACL of his own, nearly setting an NFL rushing record last season and winning the MVP -- is that everyone's body is different. Everyone's injury is different, everyone's recovery is different, everyone's return date is different.
Different, different, different.
But Chicago's reaction to Rose? The same as its reaction to Jay Cutler: embarrassing.
The Cutler thing was a lesson for all of us, not only Chicago sports fans. It was a lesson for me, to be honest with you. Cutler has that face, that demeanor. You know the one. Smokin' Jay Cutler, the indifferent slacker. That one. It's been there since he got to Chicago in 2009, probably since he was in Denver, even dating to his days at Vanderbilt. He is who he is, and lots of us didn't like it. So when Cutler hurt his knee during the 2011 NFC title game, lots of people -- lots of us -- were merciless. We let our personal feelings cloud our judgment, our judgment being that the starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears has no business standing on the sideline with a boo-boo while his team loses the NFC championship game.
Turns out, that was no boo-boo. That was a torn MCL. One of the ligaments holding Cutler's knee in place was injured badly enough that a month off was required to heal. Watching on television or sitting at Soldier Field, we didn't know that. We saw the indifferent slacker standing on the sideline, and we revolted. Bears fans revolted worst of all. Pictures of Bears fans setting fire to Cutler's jersey made the Internet rounds.
Back then, Chicago fans hadn't learned from Jake Peavy. He's the White Sox staff ace, or at least he was supposed to be after arriving from the Padres at the 2009 trade deadline. Peavy was on the disabled list with an ankle injury at the time of the trade, and he didn't make his White Sox debut until September. At the time nobody seemed to think Peavy had rushed back, but in hindsight he came back too soon. We know that because Peavy tore a back muscle midway through the 2010 season, an injury doctors blamed on poor mechanics from the ankle injury. Peavy injured his upper body trying to compensate.
So there's your timeline: Chicago's Jake Peavy rushes back from injury in 2009 and is hurt in 2010. Chicago's Jay Cutler is vilified in 2011 for leaving the NFC title game with what was, in hindsight, a legitimately injured knee. Chicago's Derrick Rose tears his ACL in 2012, and here we are in 2013, waiting for him to return.
And this is Derrick Rose, for crying out loud. It's not Jay Cutler, a player some in Chicago didn't like. It's not Jake Peavy, a player many in Chicago didn't know.
Chicago knows Derrick Rose, and likes him. And this is how Chicago -- the city, and the organization -- is treating him?
I keep waiting for someone with the Bulls -- coach Tom Thibodeau or general manager Gar Forman -- to be the adult here and urge Rose to not come back this season at all. The Bulls are a playoff team without Rose, and when he comes back, he won't be back as Derrick Rose the destroyer. Not right away, anyway. He's more likely to be back as Eric Gordon has been back with the Hornets, and as Dirk Nowitzki has been back with the Mavericks. Both those guys suffered knee injuries, came back, but haven't come back strong. Both are a shell of themselves. Why? Because a knee injury is no joke.
Adrian Peterson made it look like a joke, the way he came back last season, but he's just like everyone else in this story: A unique person with a unique injury, a unique surgery, a unique rehabilitation. One isn't another. Rose isn't Peterson. He isn't Gordon or Nowitzki, either. He's Rose. His knee is his knee, and while nobody with the Bulls will come out and say it, LeBron James already has:
"He shouldn't be rushed back by nobody," James said last month. "This is Derrick Rose's career we're talking about. Nobody else's. Because if Derrick Rose comes back and gets injured again, Derrick Rose is the only people that's got to deal with that."
Well, there is the Reggie Rose thing.
Reggie, Derrick's brother, caused problems last month when he suggested Derrick wasn't in any hurry to return because the Bulls hadn't done enough to compete for an NBA title.
"Everyone is expecting Derrick to come back," Reggie Rose said. "If Derrick comes back, they're going to sell more tickets. Is the reason for Derrick to come back to win a championship or make money? Right now, I don't believe a championship. Everything in the NBA is financial."
Reggie Rose did his brother no favors there, but at the same time, he doesn't speak for his brother. Derrick Rose has a track record of toughness and humility. There are lots of nice players in the NBA. There might not be a nicer one than Derrick Rose, and Chicago knows this. He was the MVP in 2011. He is 24 years old. Chicago kid that he is, Rose will almost surely spend his entire career with the Bulls. That gives him another decade to chase an NBA title, maybe win more than one.
But people want to hurry him back? For the last few weeks of the regular season, and then whatever playoff elimination awaits?
This is your Jay Cutler moment, Chicago, all over again. You whiffed that first one.
You gonna make like Adam Dunn now?