Bennett under surface among Bears receivers
By Fred Mitchell, Chicago Tribune reporter 6:59 p.m. CDT, June 13, 2012
With all the talk swirling around the other Bears wide receivers, maybe Earl Bennett needs to appear in a racy commercial with a super model to get some attention.
"That's definitely a way to get noticed," he said.
Since the arrival of 6-foot-4, 230-pound Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, the drafting of top prospect Alshon Jeffery (6-3, 216) and the impressive offseason practices of veteran Devin Hester, one of the Bears' most reliable receivers over the last four seasons has been a relative afterthought.
"I did an underwear commercial out in Los Angeles," Bennett said after Tuesday's minicamp practice at Halas Hall. "Some people liked it, some people didn't It was fun, it was a good time. My wife approved it. That's what matters a lot."
The 6-foot, 206-pound Bennett, a clutch receiver since being a 2008 third-round selection out of Vanderbilt, was injured severely in Week 2 last season against the Saints and was limited to 10 games.
It later was alleged that he was one of the targets of the Saints' bounty system that rewarded defenders for injuring opponents. Bears tackle Gabe Carimi also was injured in that game while quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked six times and kicked in the throat.
Regardless of the injury, the Bears rewarded Bennett with a four-year, $18 million contract extension last December.
"They definitely have confidence in me, so my job is to make them maintain that confidence," Bennett said.
Cutler isn't taking Bennett or any of his receivers for granted.
"It's the best receiver group I've worked with," he said. "There's a lot of talent."
Bennett, 25, has the familiarity of having worked with Cutler when they were teammates at Vanderbilt before reuniting with the Bears.
"Chemistry … working on the route running and timing … continuing to stay focused … that's what it's all about."
Marshall, acquired in a trade with the Dolphins in March, brings No. 1 receiver credentials to the Bears, having caught passes for more than 1,000 yards in five straight seasons.
"We have the ability to be one of the better corps in the league," Marshall said. "Everyone knows what Jay expects. We know what type of ball he throws. We know where he wants us to be. Now, this time of year, it's about timing and getting on the same page."
Coach Lovie Smith hopes the added attention opposing defenses devote to the new receivers will make incumbents such as Bennett and Hester more effective.
"It is safe to say the additions we have will make our receiving corps better," Smith said. "… Alshon Jeffery is a little banged up right now, but we've had a chance to see some of the good things he can do. And Eric Weems, too … a great special teams player, but I have been pleased with (him at) receiver also."
The versatility and different sizes of the corps intrigues offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
"We have guys who can run and catch, make plays, play physical, go take the ball out of the sky," Tice said. "We can't be afraid to throw the ball down the field against single coverage.
"If we get single coverage, we have to be able to take advantage of that. Free access on a great player should be something that a defense should be punished for doing. I've always felt that, and we're going to make sure we do that."
That just might mean No. 80 will be wide open more often.
W/all the talk about Jefferies and Hester and Marshal, let's not forget about our most reliable possession guy.