There is no on-ramp for Jay Cutler to ease his way into action. He didn’t play the occasional series like Tennessee’s Vince Young, or work his way gradually into more playing time like a vast array of players at other positions; he’ll make his first start, take his first snap and throw his first pass in quick succession, perhaps even on the same play if the Broncos call for a game-opening pass.
To at least one Bronco who’s been there, advancing through those opening moments is crucial.
“(My) first feeling as a rookie (was) getting that first play out of the way,” defensive end Kenard Lang said.
After Lang did that nine years ago, though, he settled down. He expects Cutler to do likewise.
“The main thing is that I look at every individual as an equal — or that I’m better than him,” Lang said. “They put their pants on just like me, so that shouldn’t make them any better. That way you don’t have no doubt in your mind; you go in there with the utmost ability, that you know you can beat them, and go from there.”
Cutler waited three months for his first start. Tight end Tony Scheffler — who roomed with Cutler during training camp — didn’t have to wait at all, opening the Sept. 10 game at St. Louis in a two-tight end formation.
“It’s kind of a surreal moment,” Scheffler said. “I think it’ll hit him the first series or so, and then hopefully he’ll settle down.”
Fullback Kyle Johnson, meanwhile, waited over two years through multiple practice-squad stints before his shot arrived in 2004 with his first substantial offensive action against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 10, and then his first actual start 15 days later at Cincinnati.
“The first start is the one where I was a nervous wreck the night before,” Johnson remembered. “I might as well just walked around the hotel room all night because (sleeping) really wasn’t that useful. But you get that first play out of the way, you get that second play out of the way and you start to remember that this is the same game you’ve been playing all your life.”
Added Lang: “Most likely (with) Jay, knowing him (and) knowing how confident he is, he’ll have no doubt in his mind that he knows he’ll do a good job.”
And what does Cutler himself see?
“My pregame’s going to be a little bit different, and I’ll be a little bit more excited,” he said. “But once I get on the field, I think (adrenaline) is just going to take over and I’ll be fine.”