Written by Mike Summa of Bleacherreport.com
To many, it was like he was not even on the roster.
Throughout 2008 and into the offseason, many Chicago Bears fans have speculated about the absence of third-round rookie pick Earl Bennett.
The Vanderbilt superstar set numerous SEC receiving records, but during his rookie season in the NFL, Bennett did not catch a single pass and saw little offensive playing time.
Not knowing what to make of the it, fans have been speculating about the situation ever since the lack of talent at wide receiver grew from a hot topic to a raging inferno late last season.
Some fans feel the Bears are such poor evaluators of offensive talent that they overlooked Bennett and were more awe-struck by guys like Marty Booker and Rashied Davis.
Others say Bennett did something to anger the coaching staff.
But it was Bennett himself who cleared the air this week in a Chicago Tribune article.
“I struggled [learning] the plays last year,” Bennett said Wednesday. “I was lethargic because of it. It probably took me until Week 6, Week 7 to pick them up.
“Toward the end, I started grasping the concepts. Once you put things aside and just play, you can play a lot faster.”
The Bears are very thin at wide receiver at this point.
With veterans Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker out of the picture, the up-to-speed Bennett has been working with counterpart Devin Hester in this week’s veteran mini camp, the team’s first set of organized activities this off season.
Hester, Bennett, and Davis are currently the team’s top three receivers, along with longtime practice squad enigma Brandon Rideau, former Indianapolis Colt Devin Aromashodu, and reserve/futures contract signee John Broussard.
Further depth will likely be filled through next month’s draft and the post-draft free agent market, but the coaching staff has promised a more prominent role for Bennett in 2009.
Then again, the same was also said about the injury-prone Mark Bradley during every offseason he spent in a Bears uniform.