New Bears tight end Martellus Bennett is quite a showman
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org March 13, 2013 11:11PM
Updated: March 14, 2013 9:35AM
With Halas Hall under construction, the Bears arranged metal folding chairs in front of a wood podium and blue, sponsor-stamped backdrop on the track inside the Walter Payton Center.
From there, new Bears tight end Martellus Bennett delivered something akin to a colorful comedy set instead of the typical, cliché-heavy news conference.
Bennett noted his enjoyment of Harry Potter (innocent), previewed his children’s book (interesting), spelled out what happens when he consumes milk (not pretty because of his lactose intolerance) and explained the root of his most famous nickname, ‘‘Black Unicorn.’’
Well, the latter can only come from him.
“Basically, black unicorns are rare. Anytime you see a picture, like at school, when you get the little folders, they all had white unicorns on there. Being African-American, I just thought it would be clever to be the ‘Black Unicorn,’ ” Bennett said, with his wife, Siggi, giggling nearby. “That’s pretty much it. That’s all there is to it. It’s just kind of one of those things that kind of sticks to you.”
As he passed Jermon Bushrod from the podium to a folding chair, Bennett whispered to the Bears’ new left tackle, “Sorry, man.”
But Bennett is determined to elicit “oohs” in addition to “ha-has.”
“He keeps it young,” Michael Bennett said of his son. “He’s a hard worker, and he knows when he’s on the football field, he’s focused.
“But when he’s not, he likes to laugh and have fun, and that’s a good thing.”
Bennett was a free agent last offseason after playing behind eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten in Dallas for his first four NFL seasons. Not thrilled about the contract offers, Bennett accepted a one-year, $2.5 million contract from the New York Giants.
He sparkled in 16 starts, catching 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns, and he earned a four-year, $20 million contract from the Bears on Tuesday that included $9 million in guarantees.
Before the news conference, the Bears informed the previous regime’s two tight ends, Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, of their release, a move that saved them a combined $4.1 million in salary-cap space, which they needed.
The Bears now turn the position over to Bennett, who has established himself as a three-down player, given his skills as a blocker and receiver, and he’ll be another weapon for quarterback Jay Cutler.
Bennett embraces all of that responsibility.
“I thought my season was OK,” Bennett said, referring to last year with the Giants. “I think I’m getting better and better every year. I think next year will be even better.
“I was able to build some confidence into the things I thought I was capable of doing and to finally get a chance to do that, you can only improve. I think it was a huge stepping-stone.”
Coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery laughed along with everyone else, as Bennett talked about dinosaurs and his Cap’n Crunch rap.
“I think you got a little bit of a taste for Martellus there,” Trestman said. “He’s going to bring some life and some energy.”
Emery even pointed to his wife and Bennett’s love of art.
“He looks at things from a different perspective,’’ Emery said. ‘‘Being married to an artist, I certainly understand that perspective. And I’m glad we will have elements within our locker room that will add to our total team effort.”
But Emery didn’t invest all that money in Bennett to lighten up the locker room. He did so because, even at 26, Bennett is one of the league’s most complete tight ends, an asset on running and passing plays, a playmaker who cannot be ignored.