In all of the excitement surrounding the Chicago Bears and their new offensive attack, it seems that at least one guy has gotten lost in the shuffle throughout the first couple of weeks.
However, that all changed with one big catch last Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
When Earl Bennett dragged his back foot in the corner of the end zone to complete a 17-yard touchdown reception from Jay Cutler that all but sealed a Bears victory, it was almost as if he was saying, hey remember me? I can make plays too.
It was undoubtedly the biggest catch of the game for the Bears as their offense had begun to sputter in the second half. They needed someone to step up and make a play and Bennett was the guy to do it.
Not Martellus Bennett, but Earl Bennett. The seemingly forgotten man on the Bears offense.
The same guy who has battled back from two concussions and a lacerated liver over the past two seasons.
The guy who agreed to take a pay cut prior to the start of this season because of a dip in his production due mainly to injuries.
The guy who was also rumored in trade talks prior to the beginning of this season.
The guy whom his teammates seem to love because of his selflessness and team-first attitude.
He is the type of player that every team needs in order to be successful—the guy who fights through adversity to find his way back to the playing field to help his team in any way he can. No complaining and no feeling sorry for himself. It's all about doing whatever is necessary to help the team, end of story.
That's who Earl Bennett is, and that's why he has the utmost respect of his teammates and coaches.
It was good to see Earl finally get that touchdown. We had a word [Sunday] in chapel and it was about selflessness and Earl epitomized that. You see a guy take a pay cut and you see a guy who is really a great receiver and he's not getting the ball a lot. For him to keep his head in the game and make that play for us, it's special. It says a lot about his character.
There's no doubting the character of Bennett and now the hope is that he is starting to feel comfortable again after his most recent setback, which was a concussion prior to the start of this season. It was the second concussion within the last year for Bennett and was yet another issue that kept him off the field.
In fact, since playing in 30 games and combining for 100 receptions and 1,278 yards in 2009 and 2010, Bennett has struggled to stay on the field. In 2011 and 2012 he combined for only 53 receptions and 756 yards in 23 games.
It has been well documented that he and Cutler have a great relationship dating back to their days at Vanderbilt. Cutler has always felt comfortable with Bennett on the field because if nothing else was working, he could always rely on Bennett as his safety valve. After all, Bennett does catch just about anything thrown his way.
However, over the past couple of seasons, Bennett hasn't been on the field as much and so Cutler didn't have him to rely on. And after his concussion during training camp this year, it appeared that Bennett may never find his way back.
Then he showed up in a big way last Sunday night when his team needed him most. And that may be just what he needed to get himself going again. That being said, he understands that with the weapons that the Bears have on offense, there will be games that he may not be needed much, but he's always ready.
He had the following to say when asked about feeling left out of the offense:
Everybody's going to get their opportunity. When it comes, you've just got to take advantage of it. Maybe it's one ball this week, maybe seven the next week. You never know who the guy's going to be. In Week 1 it was Brandon; in Week 2, Martellus. In Week 3, Alshon had a lot of big catches. We've just got to stay ready. The biggest thing for me is to be selfless. I'm going to do whatever it is the team needs me to do. Whether it's go out and field punts, go out and make tackles on kickoffs or catch 120 balls, whatever the team needs me to do, that's what I'm here for.
It's this kind of attitude that has earned him the respect of coaches and teammates alike.
Coach Marc Trestman said the following when asked about Bennett:
He's a consummate professional and one of the highest character guys we have in our locker room. Anybody who knows him, they will say that. He's selfless, completely unselfish and will do whatever he can to help this football team. He's always where he should be, lines up where he should be, runs the routes the way he should run them. He's a tremendous technician. He's a tremendous asset to our football team. I think Brandon said it right; he's just a very unselfish guy who's all about team.
So it's evident that Bennett is well liked inside the Bears locker room, but now the key is for him to remain healthy for an entire season. If he can stay on the field, it just gives the offense one more weapon to go to and certainly one that Cutler would love to have.
With Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett it may be easy to lose sight of Earl Bennett and what he means to this Bears offense. Fans may not realize it, but his presence and significance is clearly not lost on his teammates and coaches.
He may not be the main concern for opposing defenses each week, but that suits Bennett and the Bears just fine. If healthy, he'll just continue to show up and make plays when his team needs him to.
It's just a hunch, but I don't think his catch in Pittsburgh will be the last you hear from Earl Bennett this season.
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