BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – When Martellus Bennett erupted in a fit of pique at rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller at Monday’s practice, the situation drew the irritation of teammates and caused coach Marc Trestman to end that tight-red-zone session of practice.
[RELATED - Bennett-Fuller fight cuts practice short]
It also called into question the maturity of nothing less than what one Hall of Famer considers a central figure in what the 2014 Bears will become.
Former Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin, a visitor to practice last week, had a particular interest in Bennett, whom Irvin saw often while Bennett was starting his career as a Cowboy.
“I see an incredible opportunity here,” said Irvin, who said that the only reason the Bears were not more celebrated nationally for their offense last year was the spectacular year in Denver by Peyton Manning and the Broncos. “In Dallas, we lived with what everybody called ‘The Triplets,’ Troy [Aikman], Emmitt [Smith] and me.
“But what I saw [in Chicago] last year was what I called the ‘Fantastic Four’ with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte. The question is whether they’re going to become that ‘Fabulous Five,’ a new ‘Fab Five.’ Martellus is that key.”
But the Bennett that Irvin saw in Dallas was not going to be a key anything. An irony with Bennett’s outburst on Monday was that it ran counter to the kind of individual and player Bennett has become. Irvin saw that last week.
“I was there. I saw him in those early years when every break it was ‘[Nonsense] Time,’ not ‘Study Time,’” Irvin said. “He’s a different dude now. People underestimate what that little bit does, because when I’m sitting down watching, I’m learning. It translates onto the football field.
“There is no one more gifted at their position than Jay Cutler, and also Martellus Bennett. If they get the cerebral part of the game to go with their physical gifts, there’s no telling.”
Bennett has become a student of his craft on and off the field, a legendary note-taker in meetings and huddling up with Cutler even after practice to refine a fine point. “Now I see him [talking] one-to-one with Jay Cutler, one-to-one with Brandon Marshall,” Irvin said.
But he also acknowledges that Irvin’s take on him was spot-on in Dallas.
“People forget that when I went to Dallas, I was 21 years old,” Bennett said. “I was coming out after being the No. 1 player in the country in high school, best player on my team in college, and I was behind ‘Witt’ [Jason Witten],” Bennett said. “I don’t know if I didn’t take it as seriously, but it felt like the opportunity just wasn’t there. So I felt like it didn’t really matter what I would do. I worked out all summer, came back, and nothing moved, still the same. No matter how much extra you would do, nothing changed. I was still behind him.
“But now, a lot of the stuff I did behind him, I still do as well: working extra on a route, talking to Tony [Romo]. Now I do a lot of that, taking notes, talk to the quarterback the same way he did, because I watched him all the time. I paid attention to what he was doing.”
Whether Witten threw offending defensive teammates down by their facemasks was information that was not immediately available. As far as Bears coaches and teammates are concerned, however, a next step for Bennett will be to lose that part of his game.
“There are disciplinary issues, certainly, in terms of hurting the football team,” said coach Marc Trestman. “This would resonate on a Sunday afternoon or a Monday night or a Sunday night or whatever it is. It hurts your football team dramatically in all three phases, and our players understand that.”