Already reeling from a 1-4 start and facing questions about injured quarterback Jay Cutler’s future with the team, coach John Fox and the Bears took on fire from an increasingly familiar source Tuesday: former tight end Martellus Bennett.
Bennett railed on Cutler and the Bears’ culture in a clip teased by ESPN’s “E:60,” which will air a segment about the tight end and his brother Michael on Wednesday.
“Some people that you want to be a leader are not the guy that’s the leader,” Bennett told ESPN about Cutler. “And everyone in the locker room knows that this is not the leader — but this is what you want the face of the team to look like.”
Bennett, whose Bears teams were 19-29 in his three seasons, had choice words for his former Bears teammates.
“We just had a bunch of bitches on the roster — that’s why we didn’t win games — and coaches liked the bitches,” he said.
The interview was conducted during the summer. The ESPN The Magazine story written from it was published in August, with Michael Bennett, the Seahawks’ star defensive end, calling Cutler the “worst quarterback in the NFL.”
“I’d be open,” Martellus Bennett said in the story, “and he’d throw into double coverage.”
Cutler took the high road when told of the comments in August, saying that “I could say something clever and smart, but I’ll just pass.”
Cutler hasn’t played this season since leaving Week 2 with a sprained right thumb ligament. Pressed Monday about whether he’ll get the job back from the efficient Brian Hoyer when healthy, Fox said that the Bears “don’t have a plan” — because Cutler has yet to be cleared to play, anyway. Teammates have praised Hoyer’s leadership since taking over the starting job in Week 3.
The brewing controversy notwithstanding, frustration is growing following the team’s 1-4 start. In Sunday’s loss to the Colts, safeties Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey were filmed arguing after their blown coverage led to a Dwayne Allen touchdown. In Week 2, injured linebacker Pernell McPhee confronted Cutler on the sideline after a third-quarter interception that proved to be the quarterback’s last pass attempt before leaving with the injury.
Still, Bennett has little moral authority to lecture about locker room culture. He’s on his fourth team in six years, and was traded when Bears brass decided his on-field performance didn’t justify his attitude.
He clashed with two separate Bears regimes. Marc Trestman suspended him from training camp in 2014 after he body slammed first-round pick Kyle Fuller. Following his Pro Bowl season that year, he held out for a new contract that never came. His refusal to train at Halas Hall until threatened with a fine was not met well by new GM Ryan Pace and Fox.
In March, the Patriots gave up a fourth-round pick for Bennett, who is in the final year of his contract, and the Bears’ sixth-rounder. He’s been wildly successful there: Bennett’s five touchdowns are most among tight ends and his 314 receiving yards rank third.
Bennett had an opportunity to address his Bears career in August when the Bears practiced in Foxborough, Mass., for three days before playing the Patriots. He ducked interviews with Chicago reporters all week, refusing to talk after practice and, after promising postgame availability, changing his mind.
Bennett had every opportunity to air his grievances with his former teammates face-to-face, but did not. He mingled with tight end Zach Miller, among others, after practice, and even spoke to Fox while the coach said hello to Bennett’s wife and young daughter.