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It was easy for Cutler to earn "respect" when he had the option to slide

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler maybe earned a bit of respect when he bowled over Steelers safety Robert Golden at the end of a 13 yard scramble on Sunday. However, for a quarterback, in an era where player safety is paramount, it's easy to gain respect when he has the option to slide, and a defender is perhaps a bit on his heels thanks to more stringent rules.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

I don't know what Steelers safety Robert Golden was thinking as he approached Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during his 13 yard scamper on third and long that kept Chicago's pivotal fourth quarter drive alive, but I can probably guess; and if it was the same thing I, the thousands of fans in attendance at Heinz Field on Sunday night and the millions watching at home were thinking, well, Golden probably anticipated the almost obligatory QB slide.

Instead, Cutler ended his first down-clinching scramble by lowering his shoulder into Golden and knocking him on his back.

I can't remember if Cutler got all fired up, but knowing him, he probably did. I do remember that Cris Collinsworth, NBC's color analyst for Sunday Night Football, gushed about the respect that a quarterback always gets when he makes a hard-nosed play like the one Cutler made.

Respect? Maybe, but it sure is nice to have the option to slide.

If I'm a defensive player, and I see a quarterback running in the open field, and I know it's 2013, and there are so many new rules to protect any offensive ball-carrier (but especially the quarterback), I might be a little more hesitant to lower the boom.

During the collision between Cutler and Golden, it didn't look like Golden let up, but he sure didn't seem to put his entire body into the tackle, either.

And maybe rightfully so. Player safety is paramount, especially in an era where everyone is more aware of the dangers of head injuries and how they can effect an NFL player's quality of life. I don't know about you, but I don't get much more enjoyment out of a bone-crunching hit than I do a nice form tackle. For me, as a Steelers fan, it's all about stopping the opposing offense as quickly and efficiently as possible.

However, these new rules on player safety do put defenders in awkward situations. What did Jerome Bettis used to say? "It ain't no fun when the rabbit gets the gun."

The Bus was referring to his aggressive running style, and how defenders, the more traditional aggressors (or hunters, if you will), weren't used to dealing with a ball-carrier who could dish out as much punishment as he received.

A naturally aggressive ball carrier is one thing. That's organic. It's something a defender can prepare for. But when a defender has to chase that rabbit with one hand tied behind his back, that might be a little unfair, especially when that rabbit normally wears the red shirt in practice, and it's often taboo to even mess up his fur during a game.

What's the opposite of respect? Disrespect. I've never sat in on an NFL film session, but I'll just bet Golden's teammates will give him a hard time when Cutler's hit is broken down frame-by-frame and analyzed by the coaches.

Maybe next time, when Golden is approaching a scrambling quarterback in the open field, he'll simply decide to hit him with all he's got.

That's still an option, too, ya know?

Too bad it often costs a defender 15 yards and a five figure fine.

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