The point of effective punishment is to change behavior. From that standpoint, Martellus Bennett’s suspension in training camp for a post-play attack on a teammate was effective, a lesson learned.
The test came early in the second quarter of Thursday’s game against Jacksonville. Alshon Jeffery slipped to the ground after catching a 17-yard pass from Jay Cutler. Jeffery made no effort to get up, but Jaguars safety Winston Guy Jr. delivered a full-speed blow on Jeffery, immediately drawing a personal-foul flag.
The hit also drew Bennett, who started toward Guy with purpose and some malice in his heart.
“Oh, you saw that,” Bennett said, laughing.
But after two steps, Bennett pulled up, shouted some things at Guy but that was it. His week-long suspension for going after teammate Kyle Fuller wasn’t specifically on his mind, but the point behind it — don’t hurt the team by unlawful combat — indirectly was.
“I was going after him, but then I thought, ‘Oh, don’t do it,’” Bennett said. “I told Alshon, ‘Hey, I wanted to come over there and smash him for you.’ But I thought with everything that’s just happened, don’t do that.”
The result of the play was the 17-yard gain plus 15-yard penalty. The 32 combined yards advanced the ball from the Chicago 45 to the Jacksonville 23, from where the Bears were in the end zone four plays later.
Had Bennett not curbed his first impulse and drawn his own unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, the play would have been brought back for offsetting penalties and Bennett, who was fined for the Fuller incident, likely would have been ejected and received notice of a fine for fighting from the NFL.
It wasn’t easy to pull the punch, however. “I don’t like that kind of stuff, though,” Bennett said. “At the same time, in the game, they flagged [Guy’s hit], but you’ve got to protect each other.”