BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- By now, he’s calmed down. Martellus Bennett probably realized slamming the first-round pick wasn’t the best move, nor was shouting at star receiver Brandon Marshall, who was only trying to protect the rookie, or flippantly responding, “I can afford it,” when asked if he expected a fine from the Chicago Bears.
Bennett, the suspended tight end, isn’t some sinister team-divider, as some might deduce from the most recent developments. He’s simply a young, talented and somewhat immature kid with a great job in an enormous media market, who made a mistake.
He needs to learn from it.
Was Bennett wrong for unnecessarily slamming Kyle Fuller to the ground after a routine play? Absolutely.
Was the team’s punishment -- a fine for an unspecified amount and indefinite suspension -- a bit harsh? On the surface, yes. But we don’t enough about what’s transpired behind closed doors to make an informed judgment.
At the end of Bears coach Marc Trestman’s news conference on Wednesday, he said something that resonated, and in some indirect way spoke to what the team needs from Bennett, what it needs him to be. Responding to a question about what he hopes to instill in the team during training camp, Trestman gave a long-winded answer, almost as if he were speaking directly to the tight end.
“The overriding philosophy is getting to know each other to develop levels of trust between each other -- coaches and players, players and coaches -- and to define our behavior through respect and humility,” Trestman said. “We’re gonna respect everybody around us. We’re gonna treat them with high regard. We’re gonna understand what humility means, which is we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s really that simple. If you understand the definition of those three terms, you love football, want to play it, and are a baller, we’ll find a place for you. We don’t expect everybody to understand that immediately. That’s a transformational process. It doesn’t take one week, doesn’t take one month. It may not take a year. It may take more. But that’s the day-to-day message we’re sending our coaches and I’m sending to our players. If we do that, we’ll [have] a better chance to win football games. It helps to win football games with that kind of environment.”
Bennett needs to embody those qualities Trestman described. But as he said, it’s “a transformation process” that could take longer for some players to subscribe to than others. So when Trestman and general manager Phil Emery say Bennett will have to go through “a process” before he’s allowed to rejoin the team, you have to think what the coach wants from Bennett is what he’s received from quarterback Jay Cutler and Marshall: total buy-in.
Bennett doesn’t seem to be there yet, but maybe the team’s latest action helps to speed the process.
Sources believed Bennett’s fine and suspension came as the result of multiple transgressions.
If you remember, during Trestman’s first training camp with the team last season, Bennett became involved in a brawl with nickel corner Kelvin Hayden, which eventually turned into a scrum of several players, including former safeties Major Wright and Anthony Walters, in addition to Chris Conte.
At the time, Trestman dismissed the incident as a common occurrence at camp.
“That’s what we expect,” Trestman said at the time. “It’s going to happen in a game where somebody’s going to lose their mind. When one guy does, it’s not who he is. He just lost his composure for a minute.”
The problem is Bennett is one of the few Chicago players to lose his cool at practice on multiple occasions, with each incident becoming somewhat of a production. During OTAs in June, Bennett scrapped with Lamarr Houston and later slammed his helmet to the ground in frustration before using his 140-character limit on Twitter to vent a few expletives.
During the incident last year at camp, Bennett walked away to one of the auxiliary practice fields to gain his composure, where he stayed for approximately three minutes before joining teammates.
Then on Monday, Bennett’s confrontation with Fuller became a drawn-out affair in which he yelled at Marshall and needed Houston, Matt Forte and Zach Miller to calm him down, in addition to offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.
“I think everyone has a good handle on what happened, how we should handle ourselves, and what each single player means to this team,” Cutler said on Monday.
Bennett means more than most, considering he contributed 65 catches in 2013 for 759 yards and five touchdowns, which makes it imperative he learns from this punishment and returns to the team as soon as possible.
“We’ve all reached out to him,” Cutler said. “We care about him, and we love all the guys. He works extremely hard out here. Going forward, we just hope we get him back sooner than later. All we know is we try to protect each other out here and we need everybody. We’ve got to do our best in the heat of battle.”
Bennett just needs to do his best to put this behind him.