The distance of Martellus Bennett’s catches didn’t always matter. When Bennett made them during training camp in 2014, former coach Marc Trestman would run to him.
Together, coach and player would jog back to the huddle. The purpose was to make sure Bennett was moving. Bennett’s tendency to slowly walk back to huddles had irked the coaching staff and teammates.
On one such occasion in the same camp, a special-teams linebacker, who later was released, uttered in earshot of the media on the sideline for Bennett to “run it back.”
Fast forward to the present, where Bennett’s turbulent run with the Bears is nearing its end. On Friday, ESPN reported the Bears are trying to trade Bennett with the help of his agent, Kennard McGuire.
It isn’t a surprise it has reached this point. It’s the result of a strained relationship with a team that has spanned two coaching staffs.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, neither general manager Ryan Pace nor coach John Fox offered much support for Bennett, saying only he remained under contract.
Bennett left an unpleasant first impression with Pace and Fox when he skipped the voluntary portions of the offseason program in his pursuit of a new contract.
After keeping a low profile for several weeks, Bennett’s frustrations finally became public Nov. 4, when he questioned his role. It came days after he had three catches on five targets for 32 yards in a loss to the Vikings.
“I just kind of keep my head down and go to work,” Bennett said. “Because when you say something, you become the [jerk], even if it’s a valid point. So I just avoid drama. They don’t play the [jerks].”
In the end, it was another sign more issues were coming.
At that point last season, only two tight ends had more targets than Bennett. His 58 targets were the same amount he had at the same time in 2014, when he set career highs with 90 catches, 916 yards and six touchdowns.
A source said members of the organization became increasingly frustrated with him.
Bennett sat out the Bears’ victory against the Packers on Thanksgiving night because of a broken rib, which he suffered a week earlier against the Broncos. He later said he didn’t watch the game.
Bennett returned to make three catches for 14 yards against the 49ers on Dec. 4. Four days later, the Bears put him on injured reserve. Considering Bennett’s willingness to play through injuries, the move said plenty about his status.
There were other distressing moments. Bennett was suspended for body-slamming first-round pick Kyle Fuller in camp in 2014. He also has criticized quarterback Jay Cutler publicly on multiple occasions.
Sources said Bennett’s relationship with Trestman’s staff also soured as they searched for ways to manage him.
The Bears’ efforts to trade Bennett should be helped by a slim tight end draft class and Bennett’s contract status. He’s entering the final year of a four-year deal. However, his issues are well known, and with a base salary of $5.1 million for 2016, he’s looking for a new contract.
Saying goodbye to Bennett would leave the Bears extremely thin at tight end. They’d like to re-sign Zach Miller, who broke out last season with 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns. But Pace acknowledged Miller, who is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, might have to test free agency first.
Still, the Bears have been prepared for this situation.
The Bears traded receiver Brandon Marshall to the Jets before free agency opened last March. Bennett nearly joined him out the door later on, but the Bears couldn’t find a trade partner before or during the draft. Coincidentally, McGuire represents Bennett and Marshall.
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns