Three first-year Bears -- tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis -- spent much more of their professional careers in Dallas than they have in Chicago.
So Monday night's prime-time game between the Bears and Cowboys carries added significance for all three of them, even though they don't all admit it.
In Dallas, Bennett was an afterthought, stuck behind Jason Witten, already a four-time Pro Bowl player and a 1,000-yard receiver before Bennett was drafted in the second round in 2008. Witten had the first of his four 90-catch seasons the year before Bennett became a Cowboy. Some of those Dallas teams Bennett played on also included Terrell Owens and Miles Austin, leaving little more than table scraps for the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder.
Bennett got a lot of blocking practice, but in four seasons he caught a total of 85 passes for 823 yards.
"Witten's a great tight end," Bennett said. "I respect his game. There's a lot of things he does well and a lot of things that I learned from him. But, at the end of the day, sometimes you're just at the bottom of the totem pole and the message doesn't make it all the way down from the top, so you just try to get the scraps.
"It's kind of like when somebody invites you over for dinner, but they don't make you a plate. That's kind of what it's like."
Bennett left Dallas and set personal highs with 55 catches, 626 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Giants in 2012. This year he's on pace to top all those marks, projected for 64 receptions, 727 yards and 7 touchdowns. He says Monday's opponent holds no significance for him.
"It's just another game," Bennett said. "I try to go out there and ball. But I try to ball every single week. I just try to do what I can to be the man."
Ratliff is just happy to be back on the field after missing a little over a year with a serious groin injury that required off-season surgery and led the Cowboys to cut ties with him Oct. 16. Two weeks later the Bears snagged him, and last week he played 23 snaps in his first game back.
No hard feelings, he says.
"Everybody's still trying to make a big deal about that," said Ratliff, who made four Pro Bowls in eight seasons with the Cowboys. "To me, it's just another game. As they said, 'We're moving on.' So have I. And that's the end of it."
DeCamillis has been around the NFL block a time or two -- 24 years and six teams. So, when he compares his current location to his previous stop in Dallas, where he spent four years, it's worth a listen.
"There can't be two (more) different spectrums," DeCamillis said. "There, it's a lot different, just from the standpoint of the things that go on. It's a little bit more like Hollywood, and here it's probably a little tamer."
DeCamillis doesn't deny there's something special coaching against his former team.
"I'm not going to lie to you and say, like Ratliff, 'It's like any other game,'" DeCamillis said. "Anytime you leave some place, you always have a little bit more juice going back against them. Unfortunately, I've been at a few places now, so it's happened before.
"(Dallas) is a great organization. There's a lot of people there I respect. We've got to get a win. That's the biggest thing for us. It's important for our playoff hopes to get a win."
Ratliff is in agreement with DeCamillis regarding the circus atmosphere that often surrounds the Cowboys.
When told that DeCamillis said the environment around the Bears "is more about ..." Ratliff quickly finished the sentence: "football."
"Here it's a first-class organization," Ratliff said, chuckling. "Just to put it bluntly. And it's not a shot -- (but) if they take it like that, so be it. Here it's all about football. You can really just focus on your craft; focus on what it is you do. And no matter what's going on, you never forget what you're here for. That's a good thing."
Bennett also agrees with the Dallas-Hollywood comparison, but to the eccentric tight end, that's not a bad thing.
"I mean, I'm a Hollywood person," Bennett said. "Since I've been born I've been meant to be on Disney. But they don't really like to take too many kids from the 'hood and put them on Disney nowadays."
But Bennett will get his chance for some prime-time exposure Monday night.
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