Coach expects Martellus Bennett to stay on roster

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John Fox said he expects Martellus Bennett to remain on his roster despite asking for a new contract. (AP)

John Fox said he expects tight end Martellus Bennett to still be on the Bears’ roster at the end of the weekend. And while that’s what the coach is supposed to say — to do otherwise would ruin the Bears’ leverage in any potential trade — it allowed for a sliver of hope the marriage would continue.

Fox did little to hide his disappointment Thursday that Bennett has not attended voluntary workouts or three practices this week while he pines for a new contract.

“You know again I have talked to him, I know where he is and like I said (Tuesday) with anyone who’s not here, I’d prefer they’d be here,” he said. “But he’s part of our football team, and we’ll leave it at that.”

Bennett wants a pay raise from the four-year deal worth as much as $20.4 million he signed in 2013, and has worked out in Chicago rather than with teammates at Halas Hall. He’s posted consecutive career seasons with the Bears; last year, he led all tight ends with 90 receptions and made his first Pro Bowl.

Whether Bennett fits in the Fox’s long-term plans is a tough evaluation, the coach said, but it would be for any player after the three-day practice session that ended Thursday.

Fox was asked how he knows what he has in Bennett, when he’s yet to see him practice in person.

“That’s a good question,” he said.

The Bears’ new coaches spent the last three days watching players in person after studying them on film during the offseason. Fox said balancing the two is key.

“You formulate that back there (in the film room) but you need to give guys a fresh start, and they get to build what their rep is going to be moving forward,” he said. “It’s early in the process. Like I said, I’ve been very impressed by their focus in meetings and the ability to bring it out to the field and execute.

“It is what it is. It’s a good start.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley

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