BOURBONNAIS — Martellus Bennett did not return to the Bears like a scolded dog with his tail between his legs.
It’s not as if Bennett was a new man with a fresh outlook on life Sunday — overtly hustling back to the huddle and helping teammates off the ground.
For the record, he was never the first guy back to the huddle nor the last. He was neither overly contrite nor noticeably defiant.
He was just what coach Marc Trestman, general manager Phil Emery and his teammates want — the same old Martellus Bennett, just a little wiser about what is expected of him in terms of being a part of this team.
“I now understand the way they want me to practice,” Bennett said upon returning from what ended up being a five-day suspension after body-slamming rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller and instigating a skirmish in practice last week. “I’ve always been a guy to practice hard. I understand what they want from me and just do it the way they want it to be done.”
Bennett, whose defiance after the Fuller episode — refusing to accept blame and mocking the possibility of being fined — likely played a role in the indefinite suspension last week, expressed regret over the incident upon his return.
“I feel I could have handled the situation differently he said.
Bennett apologized to his teammates, but the Bears did not reveal details of the conditions of his reinstatement. “I did everything they asked me to do — that’s why I’m [here],” Bennett said. “Everything they asked me to do, I did and I did it exceptionally well.”
That Trestman was satisfied says everything on this team. “He deserves to be back,” Trestman said. As for Bennett now understanding the way they want me to practice, Trestman spoke only in general terms. Suffice to say the Bears just want Bennett to be a little more aware of common decency.
“We have a way we cooperate and a way we work and he understands that — I’ll just leave it at that,” Trestman said. “He knows what’s expected of him. He’s had time to think about it. He’s really done a good job with the time he’s had off. And we’re happy to have him back.”
That should be good enough. It’s not as if Bennett committed a criminal act of irreparable damage. He’s good player, a good teammate and a good guy in need of a slight attitude correction.
“We said our piece in private and it’s resolved now and we are going to be moving forward as a team and as a family,” guard Matt Slauson said. “We know what kind of guy Martellus is, so we aren’t worried at all. He’s an absolute beast. He’s our brother and we love him. Brothers fight, then you hug and it’s over.”
Bennett would be wise to follow the lead of Tim Jennings, the Pro Bowl cornerback who strikes a near-perfect balance between the relentless aggressiveness and decency needed to be as good a teammate as he is a competitor. At 5-8 Jennings has to fight for everything he gets in the NFL. He’s the underdog in almost any battle. It’s hard for him to lose one without being frustrated. But he’s become a rock in the Bears’ secondary — in practice and in games.
“Out here the first thing is to be mindful of your teammates,” Jennings said. “Everybody’s just trying to make it through camp healthy — everybody full sped, ready to go. That’s one thing [Trestman] was trying to get to Martellus — protect your teammates. Even though we’re out here batting, tempers are going to flair, but learn how to control it. Because in the heat of the moment in a game, you don’t need no foolish energy.
“We love his fire. We love his attitude he brings to the game — but not against each other. On Sunday we need to keep that composure ad do it between the whistles and be smart about it. That was the message coach was trying to give to him and I think he got it.”
The trick is getting that message through and still getting the same player. It appears to have worked out for the best for the Bears— because Martellus Bennett is a violent player, but with an open mind.
“Everything in life is about learning lessons,” Bennett said. “Whatever the situation in life, you always learn from it — whether it’s good or bad, whatever it may be, there’s always a lesson or moral to the story.