Learning a new offense is nothing unusual for quarterback Jay Cutler, who's in the process of assimilating his fourth different scheme in his fifth year with the Bears.
By now Cutler knows it takes time, a lot of work on the field and studying the playbook to master a new offense. The big difference this time is that he's been given more talented personnel than in the past.
Contact information ( * required )
Specifically, the addition of free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett could be huge. As someone with the ability to be an impact player in the passing game, protect the quarterback and pave the way for the run game, Bennett will speed the learning curve when it comes to mastering another new offense.
"There are only so many different things you can do on a football field," said Cutler, who has operated offenses coordinated by Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice and now Aaron Kromer. "Kromer and everyone else involved, and (coach) Marc (Trestman) have a great understanding of how to get guys open, how to protect the football, how to open up gaps in the run game.
"Right now we're just kind of trying to learn the basics of the offense. It's a three-year process to learn an offense. It just is what it is. It takes time. It's hard to go out there in Year One and blow the doors off."
But it might be easier this time around. In addition to Bennett, free agency also added Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson to record-setting wide receiver Brandon Marshall and do-it-all running back Matt Forte.
"This is the most competitive locker room I've ever been in, talent-wise (and) speed-wise," Cutler said. "We've got some guys in there who can really play football, and we've got a lot of them, which is a good thing. It's going to be tough when it comes down to cuts to see exactly how it shakes out."
The Bears finish their final minicamp with practices Wednesday and Thursday at Halas Hall and then enjoy a six-week break before training camp opens at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. In late July Cutler and the offense will continue incorporating the tight end into the passing game, something the Bears lacked the past two seasons.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Bennett is coming off a career year in 2012, when he caught 55 passes for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Giants.
"The thing about him is, he wants to be great," Cutler said. "He doesn't want to be (just) good. So every day he comes out here working. He's always asking us questions of what he can do better, how he can improve. He's a rare breed. He's able to block, he's able to run. He's got a really good feel in the passing game of zone (and) man. He's fun to work with. You don't find many guys like that around."
Bennett is indeed different, maybe even unusual, bordering on weird, which might be expected from someone who has nicknamed himself "The Black Unicorn." He described himself Tuesday as "creative."
"He says he's abstract," an amused Cutler said. "So take that for what it's worth. We've talked about it and I said, 'Some of your creativity, you've got to leave that in the locker room.'"
Bennett's eccentricities will be tolerated and even embraced if he produces as he did last season.
"He brings a different humor, a different swagger to that offensive group," Cutler said. "He keeps things light, but he knows when it's time to work. It's good having him in meetings. He kind of breaks some of the monotony up, and out here, when things get a little bit stagnant, he's a tall guy and he's not afraid to use his voice, so it's good having him around."
*b*The Bears added some needed defensive line depth Tuesday, when they agreed to terms with veteran tackle Sedrick Ellis on a one-year contract. The 6-foot-1, 307-pounder has started 70 games, including all 16 last season, since the Saints drafted him in the first round (No. 7 overall) in 2008 out of USC. He has career totals of 174 tackles (99 solo), 12 ½ sacks, 13 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
•Follow Bob's NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere, and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com/sports.