Bears ‘visionary’ Martellus Bennett creates much more than offense
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter October 19, 2013 1:14AM
Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) leaps to avoid a tackle by Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka (43) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:52AM
Martellus Bennett’s mind has created a theme park.
At Dinosaur Land, there are rides and games, Dino Dogs and French toast with hot syrup that flies out of guns.
Wandering through the park is McGuire, a 16-year-old mustachioed cartoon employee and Bennett’s alter-ego.
He’s named after Bennett’s agent. Like the Bears tight end, he loves Shirley Temples.
He works in a dinosaur park because, well, Bennett loves dinosaurs.
And when McGuire leaves the park, he wears a mascot costume.
Sometimes he’s a shark, other times a mummy.
‘‘I think everyone wears masks,’’ said Bennett, who is questionable with a knee injury but figures to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins, ‘‘whether it’s the clothes we wear or the things we do to try to cover up who we are.’’
It would be easy, then, to make the same leap about Bennett, who has charmed Chicago in his first season. On Monday night at City Winery, he’s putting on his first art show in two years, displaying drawings of Dinosaur Land.
But it’s no act, said Fendi Onobun, the Bears’ practice-squad tight end who has known Bennett since high school.
“He’s Martellus — there’s really no word for it,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s kind of a visionary.’’
Dinosaur Land was designed digitally — Bennett toyed on his computer at all hours, even on the road — and screen-printed onto large canvases.
Meanwhile, he was making the field his canvas.
Consider the most amazing statistic of the Bears’ season: Bennett’s 31 catches and 349 receiving yards are more than Bears tight ends combined for all last season. He has given Jay Cutler a truly balanced passing attack for the first time in Chicago.
‘‘He’s very special,’’ tight ends coach Andy Bischoff said. ‘‘He’s a complete student of the game. He never lets a play go by without completely thinking of the impact of it, not only for himself, but the whole play.’’
Bischoff calls him ‘‘brilliant,’’ on and off the field.
The 6-6, 265-pounder came with a reputation as a good receiver, runner and blocker, though the Bears have been substituting tackle Eben Britton to protect Bennett’s shoulder and knee.
‘‘We move him around, we put him out at different positions, we get him in space,’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘We have him lined up outside, and we’re trying to create as much value as we can. We’re hoping we can get back to the points — and we’ll get back to it this week — where he’s on the line of scrimmage.’’
Bennett the receiver has a size advantage, particularly against 5-10 Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, now in his 16th year.
‘‘It’s like Muggsy Bogues being posted up by Shaq,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘He’s short, but he’s been doing it for so long.
‘‘It’s not just an athletic game; it’s a mental game against him.’’
Bennett has gone by different nicknames: Martysaurus Rex. The Black Unicorn. He was even Superman for a day.
As a member of the New York Giants last year, he caught a fan who toppled over the railing toward the field. Afterward, he called himself a ‘‘neighborhood superhero.’’
Bennett, who keeps copious notes at Halas Hall, has scribbled into a Dinosaur Land book for three years now.
General manager Phil Emery’s artist wife, Beth, convinced him to debut McGuire’s world Monday, though Bennett wants to keep the drawings under wraps until then.
He collects sculptures, robots and pop-art toys. He designs women’s clothes and shoes for both sexes.
He even has bucked one of the great perks of pro sports: He doesn’t have a shoe deal.
‘‘I want to design for other guys and other players,” he said. ‘‘I don’t want to be the face of anything.’’
He finds inspiration in everything from his teammates to, strangely, the colors of Mexican food, and hopes to turn Dinosaur Land into an animated series.
‘‘Football is so structured,’’ he said. ‘‘You got to run an out-route 10 yards, or you have to do it this way, but art, there’s no structure.
‘‘I enjoy structure, but at the same time I like to create in an atmosphere where I can just do whatever I want.’’
Bennett connects to kids, he thinks, because they ‘‘see everything in one emotion,’’ and he tends to talk that way.
He’s working on a digital children’s book, The Wanna-Bees, featuring a character named Marty Bee. Children’s books are the only ones you should judge by their covers, he joked.
‘‘I hope we get advance copies,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘I’ve seen some of Martellus’ stuff. He’s an extremely, extremely creative guy.’’
Bennett will have a new audience soon — he and wife Siggi are expecting a child March 19. They’ll find out the gender next week but already have created a logo for the person he calls ‘‘Mini-saurus Rex.’’
He plans on printing a black-and-white version of Dinosaur Land in the nursery. Their child can be the one to color it in.
‘‘When I’m done, I want to have my own animation company,’’ he said, ‘‘where I just make cartoons and stuff I can really share with my kids.’’