BOURBONNAIS -- The Bears have suffered from years of futility at tight end since dealing Greg Olsen to the Panthers in 2011. In two seasons since trading the former first-rounder, the tight end group in Chicago has hauled in 48 receptions for 574 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Insert Martellus Bennett. Phil Emery acted quick during the first minutes of free agency in March, inking Bennett to a four-year $20.4 million contract. The man that goes by 'Martysaurus Rex' on Twitter had a breakout season with the Giants in 2012, catching 55 passes for 626 yards and five scores, but the former Texas A&M Aggie issued a warning to fantasy football owners.
"I think I'm old school, I block and get down the field," Bennett said after the first day of practice at Bears training camp in Bourbonnais. "Not that many guys do that, there's a lot of guys that are fantasy football tight ends. I'm not a fantasy football tight end. I just play the game."
With Brandon Marshall leading the way, the Bears don't need Bennett to compile fantasy football-type stats. Jay Cutler hasn't had a safety valve in the passing game since the departure of his best friend, Olsen, and that's exactly what Chicago hopes they have in Bennett.
When he was drafted by the Cowboys in 2008, Dallas had visions of Bennett and Jason Witten becoming a two-headed monster and causing fits for defensive backs in the NFC East. Bennett showed potential but didn't pan out for Jerry Jones and company. Bennett believes he took the game for granted early in his career.
"I think early in my career I kind of took the game for granted and now, every single day I'm just happy to be on the grass," Bennett said. "I enjoy catching the ball and enjoy every moment I'm here at training camp. It's just a learning experience every year."
Bennett moved from the largest city, New York, in the United States to third biggest after signing with the Bears, but he already feels like he's at home in Chicago.
"I love Chicago," Bennett said. "It's like a New York, but nicer. It's cleaner and easier to get around."
Being a tight end in the Windy City comes with lofty expectations. Hall of Famer and former Super Bowl winning coach Mike Ditka's name is synonymous with the Bears. Die-hard Bears fans often imitate Ditka by wearing his patented sweater and fake mustaches - or if you're lucky enough to grow a real one - at Soldier Field.
At first, Bennett thought Ditka was a mean person, but changed his tune after meeting him.
"I feel like he was a mean person, but he's a spirited guy, he's very passionate," Bennett proclaimed. "The thing that you watch is the charisma and passion. Everything he does with his coaching, the way he approaches the game, the love for the game is something that a lot of us take for granted, we look at it from the outside looking in and you don't really understand the passion a person has burning on the inside."
New Bears head coach Marc Trestman's personality may be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as Ditka, but his communication and leadership qualities haven't gone unnoticed by Bennett.
"Great teachers, they adapt to the style of each child differently, we're all kids learning this game and we'll continue to learn," Bennett stated. "You will never really be perfect at playing this game, I think he does a good job of communicating with us what we could do better.
"I think his communication skills are top notch, understanding whether he hears you out. Like when we're in meetings, I'll always have questions and he'll stop and answer your questions, we'll start a little discussion which is good because everyone is learning and he's not just talking at you. I think it's a big thing, he's a great communicator."
Trestman's communication was evident on Day 1 of practice. He was seen sprinting up and down the field, encouraging his new team after each play. It was something that hadn't been seen with the old regime, but to Bennett, the first practice wasn't much different than any camp he's been a part of.
"Just different weather, different place, different grass, I think this is Bermuda grass. I'm used to playing on Kentucky Bluegrass. I went to A&M, I'm an Aggie, I know my grasses."
With his career back on track, Bears fans hope different grass will yield the same results.