The "just-add-tweets-and-stir" controversy that enveloped Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler after he injured his knee during the Bears' loss to the Packers in Sunday's NFC championship was dizzying, but what made it distinctive was the derision coming not just from anonymous fans but from Cutler's fellow NFL players and former players now doing TV and radio commentary.
The legitimacy of Cutler's injury was questioned. His body language was scrutinized. An @jaycutlersheart account was up and running on Twitter before the game was over.
And then NFL players piled on.
Maurice Jones-Drew @Jones_Drew32: "All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee . . . I played the whole season on one . . ."
Darnell Dockett @ddockett: "If I'm on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT"
Kirk Morrison @Kirkmorrison55: "If my knee was hurt or acl/mcl/pcl sprain, I would not be standing up on the sideline. #jaycutler . . . Never questioned injury but Attitude & body language"
Gerald Alexander @GAlexander21: "I've never played in a playoff game. This guy was one game away and he quit! That's BS!"
Hall of Famer Deion Sanders @DeionSanders: "Im telling u in the playoffs u must drag me off the field. All the medicine in pro lockerooms this dude comes out! I apologize bear fans! . . . i never question a players injury but i do question a players heart."
It had its amusing flashes ("Knee-gate in Chicago" Anthony Armstrong @MrArmstrong13), but finally was insulting enough to get the Bears, as Phillip Daniels (@P_Daniels93) put it, "hot as fish grease."
Cutler's teammate, Chris Harris, fired back via @ChrisHarrisNFL: "Watching ESPN. To all of u IDIOTS including current players questioning Jay's toughness n fans burning his jersey need to chill out . . . I really despise jealous players as well as fans!"
Brian Urlacher took the old-school route, blasting critics during a postgame news conference Sunday. "Jay was hurt. I don't question his toughness. He's tough as hell. . . . Nothing like jealous people who are sitting home watching."
By Monday, after an MRI exam of Cutler's knee showed a Grade II tear of his medial collateral ligament, the ashes of Cutler jerseys had been swept away, and the tweets had faded from view. Bears Coach Lovie Smith tidied up verbally in a news conference: "We don't have any trouble with Jay Cutler and what he brings to the table."
As for the tweetstorm, "That's on the guys that chose to do that. . . . We're down right now. We lost the game. We're going through quite a bit, so to dogpile a little bit, you have to talk to those guys about that."
Or, better yet, tweet them.