Huddle Up: A conversation with Bears tight end Martellus Bennett
Martellus Bennett is not one to mince words. The Bears tight end, who's coming off his best statistical season as a pro, always has a lot on his plate—and his mind.
In the following conversation, Bennett discusses why he’s much happier as a Bear this year, his “inspiring” quarterback, his own future as the next Walt Disney and more.
Melissa Jacobs: Before we talk football, I want to get straight to your love of animation. Congrats on releasing your first short film, Zoovie. Why the animation business, of all things?
Martellus Bennett: I love animation because of the possibilities and the storytelling. I like to bring families together. So, when a Pixar movie comes out, the entire family goes. If it’s a scary movie or action-packed, the kids may not go with their parents. My whole thing is to create films that we can watch together as a family.
In animation the possibilities are endless. I can’t hit another human being with a frying pan and have them still be alive in a movie. It’s like, ‘Oh, he won’t be in Part 2.’ I just enjoy the colors and creativity and the options are endless. Did you see my movie?
MJ: I did and was really impressed. What’s next?
MB: Right now I’m working on a series called, Hey A.J., It’s Wondertown, which will have children’s books and apps to go along with it. But I’m working on my full feature film which comes out in theaters in 2018 called The Balloon Station.
MJ: What’s the plot?
MB: Basically it’s about these creatures called the Guompkies, and it tells the story of what happens to a balloon when it goes into the sky.
MJ: Interesting. I also read that you are penning a short story about fantasy football called “Do Not Draft Me”.
MB: It’s part of a collection of short stories in a book called Unimaginary. There are 12 short stories in there.
MJ: Given the subject matter, “Do Not Draft Me” stood out. What do you think of fantasy football?
MB: I think it’s ridiculous. I think for most people it’s just a distraction in their lives. If I could do anything fantasy, it would be like playing Harry Potter and drafting wizards, not a bunch of NFL players. I feel like people waste their time doing it.
MJ: Let’s talk that other thing you do, real football. Do you enjoy blocking or receiving more?
MB: Honestly, the more balanced my game is, I play better. When I’m one-dimensional, like running routes and not blocking, I don’t have a great rhythm in the game. My best games are when I’m blocking and then running for passes. I pride myself on being very good at both.
MJ: You’re playing pretty well these days. Do you have numerical goals when you enter the season?
MB: Yeah, but ultimately all I really want to do is win games and go to the playoffs. Last year I caught 90 balls, which was cool, but not when we weren’t winning games. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.
MJ: How different is the culture in Chicago this season with the new coaching staff?
MB: There’s a big difference. You can see it in the way guys walk, in how they talk and just the approach to every single day. It’s more of a gladiator approach. Last year was more of a Silicon Valley type approach. I don’t know if that makes sense.
MJ: So you were high tech last year and now you’re fiery cavemen?
MB: It’s like we’re knights at a roundtable preparing for battle. Before it was like ‘Oh, you pushed in your chair, great job.’ We pushed in our chairs because we are polite people, but that’s not the emphasis now.
The emphasis is on the football players. How are you as a football player? How can we help you be a better football player? The focus is back on football.
MJ: Was last year as miserable as it looked from the outside?
MB: Yeah, it was s-----. It was like going to the beach and it’s a nice day but the water is too cold so you couldn’t get in.
MJ: You’re so good with analogies.
MB: What happened was when I was a kid I used to go to vacation bible school and they told me that Jesus spoke in parables, which are really just analogies. They used to tell me everyone should be more like Jesus, so I said, “O.K.”
MB: I think it’s just the whole offense jelling together. It’s a new system, we knew it would take time. We’re going to have our hiccups but the biggest thing is we haven’t stopped believing in what we were trying to do. Jay has the authority to change plays. He’s making calls. He’s more comfortable with everything we’re doing—the looks, reading defenses. He’s doing a great job. Look at those runs where he’s lowering his shoulders or diving for a first down. He makes a lot of great plays with his throws, but when you see a quarterback scrambling for third-and-three with all he’s got to get a first down, those things are inspiring.
MJ: It feels like with Jay there have been two narratives—one about his potential and the other about him, at times, not meeting that potential. Do you think people have finally moved on and now just accept him for who he is as a quarterback?
MB: I guess the biggest gripe that people had with Jay was more about him as a person. They didn’t like the way he talked or his body language. To me, it’s foolish to judge a person that you don’t know. The guy is awesome. I really enjoy being around him and trying to be as quarterback-friendly as possible. [Laughs]
MJ: Give us one thing about Jay we don’t know.
MB: I don’t how much people know this, but he’s super intelligent. He’s almost as smart as me, which is saying a lot. I like to have intellectual conversations with him and in football you don’t get too many of those, if you catch my drift.
MJ: A couple more general questions: If you were allowed to change one NFL rule, what would it be?
MB: Oh, a lot. First, I would change how much power the NFL has over players and give some of that power back to the people. This is supposed to be a democracy. We live in America. But right now we have a dictatorship going on.
MJ: Where do you see the league in ten years?
MB: It could go two ways. They could be playing too many games. Right now, they’re like the Roman Empire, they’re on top of everything but eventually the Roman Empire crashed. In ten years I won’t be playing, I’ll probably have my own Dreamworks by then and won’t be watching football.
But I think the league will still be a powerhouse. They’re doing a great job as a business. They’re going to be an Apple or Google as far as business goes.
MB: I always think of Walmart.
MJ: Why’s that?
MB: Because he can do anything. When you go to Walmart, you can find anything. They may even sell ACLs there. You need an ACL, go to aisle six. Then you can pick up your groceries. Matt Forte as a running back, he can do anything. I think of the Walton family when I think of Matt Forte, which is kind of weird.
MJ: How about Tom Brady?
MB: I have no thoughts on Tom Brady. I like him, though. He seems like a nice guy.
MJ: JJ Watt?
MB: I think they overpromote J.J. Watt, so I think of George W. Bush.
MJ: Mike Bennett?
MB: Leonardo DiCaprio.
MJ: OK. Roger Goodell?
MB: Man, that’s tough. I’m thinking of…..
MJ: Bush again?
MB: No, I’m thinking of Olivia Pope from Scandal. She covers everything up.
MJ: He also needs Olivia Pope.
MB: No, we the players need Olivia Pope.