Earl Bennett is another offensive threat for Bears
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter September 23, 2013 9:29PM
Updated: October 25, 2013 6:26AM
Earl Bennett stood at the line of scrimmage, the middle of three wide receivers flanked to Jay Cutler’s left.
He saw a rookie, Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas, lined up across from him.
Pittsburgh was in man coverage, and Bennett knew what that meant Sunday night: He was Cutler’s first option.
It would be hard to blame the Bears receiver for being excited.
Bennett spent one month of training camp sidelined by a concussion. He was then rumored to be on the trade market, though general manager Phil Emery said otherwise. And when Bennett made the team, it was at a cost: a $1 million pay cut, though with performance bonuses.
“When I had the opportunity, I had to take advantage of it,” he said Monday at Halas Hall. “Because you never know when you’re gonna get it again.”
On third-and-five with the Bears up by four with 5:57 left, Bennett broke to the outside of Thomas from the 17-yard line and sprinted toward the left corner of the end zone.
Cutler thought he threw the pass a bit late — considering how quickly Bennett “crushed the guy” off the line of scrimmage — but it landed in his arms just in time.
“Earl made a heck of a catch in the corner,” Cutler said.
Officials didn’t think so, calling him out of bounds.
Bennett didn’t know whether his feet were in at the time. After seeing the scoreboard replay, though, he was one of the many Bears begging coach Marc Trestman to throw the red flag.
He did, and officials ruled a touchdown.
“I’m gonna do whatever it is the team needs me to do,” Bennett said. “Whether it’s go out and field punts, go out and make tackles on kickoffs or catch 120 balls.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, that’s what I’m here for.”
Bennett wants to be in Chicago for a while, even with the renegotiated deal.
“I just talked to my agent, and we did what I thought was best for me,” he said. “I love playing here, and I look forward to playing here many more years.”
Bennett is the team’s No. 3 receiver — he played 22 snaps Sunday, 11 fewer than in Week 2 but four more than in Week 1 — but has the ability to be yet another threat in Trestman’s attack.
“Maybe it’s one ball this week, maybe seven the next week,” Bennett said.
“You never know who the guy’s gonna be.”
Trestman called Bennett — who had two catches for 22 yards Sunday — a “tremendous tactician” who always knows where to be and when.
On Sunday, it was in the end zone.
“He’s selfless, completely unselfish,” Trestman said, “and will do whatever he can to help this football team.”