There's nothing more useless to a football team than the funny guy who doesn't take the game seriously and can't play.
Tight end Martellus Bennett is a very funny guy.
Contact information ( * required )
But he also works hard and is a devout student of the game.
And he can play.
Bennett got off to a rough start in the season opener when he dropped the first pass thrown to him, and he was flagged twice for holding. He said the pressure got to him on the drop.
"You want to make plays," he said. "You want to do the best you can to show the city what we're going to be about this year. You got the Bulls, who win. And then you have the Blackhawks, who just won a championship. And it's our time of year right now.
"I think everybody had pressure just to be great. When you've got that type of pressure from one another, everyone is nervous. If you go out there and you're not nervous, then something's wrong with you. We're not Navy Seals. I think those are probably the only people who aren't nervous, for the most part."
But Bennett redeemed himself with a difficult catch in traffic for an 8-yard TD, the Bears' first score of the season. "The Black Unicorn," as he calls himself, finished with 3 catches for 49 yards, including a 30-yard hookup with quarterback Jay Cutler on a crucial third-and-7 play that helped set up the second touchdown.
Bennett gave himself the "The Black Unicorn" nickname, and although it hasn't caught on in the mainstream yet, he says he is occasionally addressed that way.
"Coaches call me The Black Unicorn," Bennett said. "I think we have a Unicorn Package, too. Sometimes people call me, (and) I forget they're talking to me because I have so many names."
Wide receiver Eric Weems calls Bennett "The Orange Deeno," which is supposed to be pronounced "Orange Dyno," (because his favorite animal is the dinosaur) but, Bennett said, "He's from the south, so I don't really hold it against him."
The list of names goes on.
"There's 'Marty,' " Bennett said. "Some people call me ''Tellus,' it just depends what day it is. Some people call me 'Joe Gryffin.' Some people call me 'Joe Gryffindor (from Gryffindor House in the Harry Potter books, of which Bennett is a big fan),' or 'Joey G.' I have tons of names."
By any name, Bennett has a chance to become the Bears' most complete tight end since Mike Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles after the 1966 season. In his first four seasons with the Bears, Ditka averaged 62 catches, 918 yards and 7 ½ touchdowns.
Last year with the New York Giants, Bennett caught 55 passes for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns. In Marc Trestman's offense, he has the potential to approach Ditka-like numbers. He won't do it with his sense of humor or extroverted personality, but that's just one side of Bennett, according to Trestman.
"You see the colorful end of it from your end, but there's also a very serious, football-oriented guy," the coach said. "He got what he deserved on that touchdown. He worked hard with Jay on Friday of last week working that route four or five different ways. He's one of our hardest workers. He's a team guy.
According to Trestman, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound funnyman turns serious when he enters the meeting rooms.
"He's very professional," the coach said. "He's a diligent note taker. He's the guy who's always going, 'It's my fault,' or 'nice play,' or 'nice block.' He's the first one to speak up. He's the most vocal guy, but it's not in a way that takes away from the flow of a meeting. He's very businesslike, and he's a meticulous note taker. He writes down everything. Every coaching point, everything we say in team meetings, he writes it all down.
"He's a very smart player, he's got unique route running skills for a man his size, and we'll continue to use him."
And that's no joke.
• Follow Bob's NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere, and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com/sports.