LAKE FOREST — The sound of silence is seldom, if ever, heard when Martellus Bennett has a microphone in front of him.
But the Bears tight end, who admitted on a radio show last season with Chicago Football’s own Hub Arkush that he wasn’t familiar with Simon and Garfunkel, told us on Wednesday following the Bears’ second minicamp practice that he expanded his classic rock repertoire to include the famous folk duo. Though he described Simon and Garfunkel as “pretty good,” he’s sticking with his favorites in alternative rock, including My Morning Jacket and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Our conversation was intended to shift from arts to football at that point, but in typical Bennett fashion, he managed to blend the two when discussing his mindset in Year Two with the Bears.
“I grasped the offense kind of early in the process (last year), so now, for me, it’s just really fine tuning and being a little more free in the offense,” said Bennett, the Bears’ talented and talkative tight end who enjoyed a career year in 2013, his first in Chicago.
“When I run a route now, I can be artistic with it when I’m doing it and Jay understands it.”
Bennett is talking about the improved chemistry with Jay Cutler and the rest of his teammates in Year Two of Marc Trestman’s offense. While the defense is going back to square one, “fine tuning” is a term several offensive coaches and players have used this week to explain the process of building off last season’s success. He said don’t worry if it looks like some catches and throws are being missed in practice – this is the time of year when he likes to experiment with his route running to develop the best possible rapport with Cutler.
At 27 and coming off the best season of his career, Bennett is at the height of his football powers in an offense that can maximize them. He said Wednesday he’s also in peak conditioning after being slowed by injuries in 2013.
“I’m probably in the best shape of my life right now,” he said. “I feel like I’m the best overall in terms of strength, speed, explosiveness. I feel good.”
All of the offseason acquisitions on defense, in addition to providing reinforcement for Mel Tucker’s 25th-ranked unit, have helped Bennett improve. Seeing as many “as six different safeties” in practice while the Bears work on finding the right starting combination, he said, has forced him to study and diversify his route running and moves.
“It’s fun because I played against those guys before, so it’s not like I haven’t seen them, I haven’t beaten them before,” he said with a smile. “It’s good because now you have different looks, different moves, different people who play differently … so before I come out to practice, I kind of game-plan each guy, of how they’ve been playing me all week. So I’ve got different moves for each person, based off watching them.”
Bennett might spend this portion of the offseason freelancing on occasion in practice, but the coaching staff doesn’t have to worry about him not continuing to work during a month of down time before the Bears reunite in Bourbonnais.
“July is when things really start to pick up,” he said. “It only takes four days to get out of shape.” Bennett has some advice for his younger teammates to help them avoid doing just that.
“I just tell them to enjoy their lives, but don’t go overboard and be yourself,” he said. “At the end of the day, you really have to enjoy yourself, because if you don’t enjoy the process – and it’s just a grind – you won’t be as good as you’re supposed to be.
Bennett, thus far with the Bears, is certainly heeding his own advice.