Martellus Bennett hoping to find a permanent home in Chicago
Talk to Martellus Bennett for a few minutes and you will find he is anything but conventional.
He is loose and free, beginning a telephone conversation with "what's up, dog?" and cursing liberally.
"To know me is to love me," quips the Chicago Bears tight end.
Bennett has no problem engaging people, but the self-titled "Black Unicorn" has seen many teammates come and go in his six years in the NFL. Bennett is adjusting to a Bears team -- his third in three seasons -- which is unconventional in its own way, as first-year coach Marc Trestman implements his people-focused, educational philosophies on the team. After a tough four-season tenure in Dallas and a promising year in New York that could not lead to a future there, Bennett has a chance to finally feel at home with his newest team.
Taken in the second round of the 2008 draft, Bennett backed up Jason Witten in Dallas. He was used mostly as a blocker and caught only four touchdowns passes -- all in his first year. His time as a Cowboy was seen as a disappointment, and he recently opened up about his dissatisfaction in Dallas.
He left the Cowboys for the Giants, where he had the best season of his career, with 55 receptions for 626 yards and five touchdowns. Despite his production, Bennett and the Giants -- who declined a request to interview general manager Jerry Reese -- could not agree on another deal. Bennett and his wife, Siggi, enjoyed their time in New York and wanted to settle down there, but had to face a difficult truth: with the exception of a few superstars, professional athletes never have true job security, no matter how well they play.
"With the league and the salary cap now, it just didn't work out with the timing of everything, and what I felt like I was worth, but the Giants were a great organization," Bennett said.
Unable to stay a Giant, he signed a four-year deal with Chicago in March, and the Bennetts are enjoying the town.
"Downtown Chicago's a beautiful place," Bennett said. "It's like a slower New York, actually. There's a lot of museums, art museums ... They offer a lot of the same opportunities to get out and hang out with the wife, because really that's what it comes down to, is having fun with the wife."
Chicago also gets Siggi Bennett's approval. She enjoys the city's culture, and said she has been able to continue her career as a makeup artist there. Having to relocate for the second time in two years was not pleasant, but she understands that relocating is part of life for her.
"As the wife of a professional athlete, I know what I signed up for," she wrote in an email. "Sometimes you have to move, and I was ok with that."
They have also enjoyed getting to know the team, something both Bennett and the new Bears staff value. In his introductory press conference, Trestman stressed his goal of building relationships and teaching the game. This should mesh well with Bennett's outgoing personality and pave the way for a successful relationship. Tight ends coach Andy Bischoff said he and Trestman went to dinner with the Bennetts the day Martellus signed his deal, and they became close immediately.
"I think he understands I'm here to help him be the best player he can be," Bischoff said. "That goes for him as a person as well, to truly help him in any way I can."
Such mentorship would go a long way in letting the Bennetts- - who have bought a home and plan to stay in Chicago for the long haul -- feel like they belong.
Of course, in order to stay, Bennett will have to produce on the field. His 2012 season was strong, but there's no guarantee he will instantly fit in with quarterback Jay Cutler and the offense. There is, however, potential for Bennett to use all the strengths that make him one of the league's better tight ends: Bischoff called him a three-tool player who can run routes and also run- and pass-block well.
So far, both sides are saying all the right things. If they can continue to stay chummy through the tests of an NFL season, perhaps the Black Unicorn can finally rest his wings.