LAKE FOREST — Bears quarterback Jay Cutler did not get to finish the season the way he wanted to. In fact, he didn’t even get to finish the season on the field, and everyone found out why Monday when it was reported that he tore the MCL in his left knee. It is being called a second- or third-degree sprain (or tear), but the complete results of the MRI test were not released.

LAKE FOREST — Bears quarterback Jay Cutler did not get to finish the season the way he wanted to.

In fact, he didn’t even get to finish the season on the field, and everyone found out why Monday when it was reported that he tore the MCL in his left knee. It is being called a second- or third-degree sprain (or tear), but the complete results of the MRI test were not released.

“That’s what the injury was. We knew that. We had an idea at the time that’s what it was,” Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. “But the story line has seemed to be about whether our quarterback is a tough guy. He wanted to win the game as much as anyone. It’s pretty simple what happened yesterday. Before the half Jay hurt his knee. He showed a lot of toughness to continue to play with it.”

He has been blasted by current and former NFL players, fans and some in the media for coming out of the NFC Championship game against the Packers. He then watched as backups Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie fell short in the comeback attempt. Green Bay won 21-14 to advance to the Super Bowl.

“We made a few plays here and there but didn’t get the job done,” said Hanie, who nearly orchestrated a late rally, “But there’s one thing I know when it comes to Jay Cutler and that’s that he’s tough. ... If he could’ve been on the field and been productive and helped the team, he would’ve done it.”

After the game, Cutler and his teammates started hearing about a backlash of criticism coming from current and former players from around the league, as well as fans, about Cutler’s toughness, or what they were calling a lack thereof. And it didn’t stop until it was announced late Monday morning that Cutler did in fact have a serious knee injury.

“I think it’s insane,” tight end and Cutler’s close friend Greg Olsen said. “Anybody who’s ever watched us, that would probably be the last thing that anybody would ever question.”

Smith said that Cutler would have been questionable for the Super Bowl had the Bears made it that far, but that it could turn out to be even worse. A grade-three MCL sprain is usually repaired by surgery and requires more than a month of rehab.

Cutler was not available for interviews Monday, but Bears general manager Jerry Angelo was just another in the building to sternly come to his QB’s rescue on this subject.

“I’m very surprised. I think it’s crap. I thought they were a union. If that’s the way they unionize themselves, they have bigger issues than the ones they have with the owners,” Angelo said of the NFL players who tweeted badly about Cutler. “I’m very disappointed in that. That to me is dirty pool. It is what it is. People are allowed to say what they want to say, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right.”

Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or jtaft@rrstar.com.