New additions two big plusses for Bears
The Bears are convinced they'll get a lot more than a reliable protector for Jay Cutler's blind side and a dangerous weapon in the passing game from their high-profile free-agent additions.
"We've got two quality guys; two guys that are ascending at their work at this stage," coach Marc Trestman said Wednesday of left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett. "We got our team better."
Bushrod, 28, will the new guy in the O-line room, and he's not a rah-rah guy. But in six NFL seasons, he's accomplished more than anyone else in the room. He has been voted to the past two Pro Bowls and started for the New Orleans Saints' 2009 Super Bowl champs.
"(He brings) a lot of attractive elements in terms of the player and the person," general manager Phil Emery said of the fourth-round pick from Towson University. "Bringing somebody in that has been through a situation where you've won a Super Bowl adds a lot to your team."
Bushrod started slowly in New Orleans, playing little in his first two seasons, but he started 62 games in the last four years, including all 16 in three straight seasons.
"I was looking over his college report, and it talked about how he had matured as an individual and was the guy at Towson that stepped up and was a leader," Emery said. "That carried over (with the Saints) in terms of being very professional, strong work ethic, work habits, always working to get better.
"We felt that he was the No. 1 (free-agent) tackle."
Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was Bushrod's position coach with the Saints.
"I've never been one of the vocal-type people," said the 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle. "The way that I'm going to try to lead is coming to work and putting in the work in the classroom and on the field.
"If I'm struggling with something, which I do every single year, I'm going to fight to get those things better."
Bennett, 26, gives the Bears a much more accomplished receiver at tight end than they've have had since Greg Olsen. And at 6-6 and 265, he's a more-than-effective blocker.
"He's a guy who can do it all on all three downs," Trestman said. "He loves to block in the running game. He's got a high football IQ. He can handle the middle of the field and get open in the middle of the field.
"He can get vertical. He can extend. He can elevate. And he's ascending. He's just getting going."
Bennett, who was joined by his wife, Siggi, at Wednesday's news conference at the Walter Payton Center, languished his first four years in the league playing behind Cowboys go-to tight end Jason Witten.
But when he got the chance to be the main man last season with the New York Giants, Bennett took the opportunity and ran with it, posting career highs of 55 catches, 626 yards and 5 touchdowns.
"It's no secret that I struggled early in my career," he said. "But it wasn't because of ability or being able to make plays. It was more attitude. I think I never accepted my role in Dallas and always was fighting what my role was instead of just accepting it."
That role involved a lot of blocking, which Bennett eventually accepted, and it has made him a more complete player.
"I became one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, and it's helped me out throughout my whole career," he said. "I finally got a chance to be a No. 1 guy, and I was able to make huge strides in being able to make plays. This is the next step for us."
Bennett brings the added benefit of a free spirit who will enliven the locker room and amuse team followers.
"I'm excited to be a Chicago Bear," he said. "Bears are one of my favorite animals after dinosaurs. I don't think there are any dinosaurs in the NFL, so a Bear is a great thing."
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