Bennett Rookie Diary: 22nd Entry

WR Earl Bennett (Warren Wimmer Photo)

Chicago Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett is still yet to make a big impact on offense, but he has turned himself into a serviceable special-teams option. In this installment of his Rookie Diary, Bennett writes about holding on to slim playoff hopes and drawing pass-interferene penalties.

We're coming up to what promises to be one of the big games of the year for us. The fact that it's a rivalry with national television coverage makes things that much better.

I love night games. There is a certain intensity that I don't think you find during the daytime. Perhaps that's because there is the entire day to get ready for it. I've been getting a lot of calls from my college teammates and from those who are still playing at Vanderbilt telling me that they will all be watching. That doesn't put any extra pressure on. If anything, it makes the entire experience that much more fun.

I don't plan to sit down to watch any of the other NFL games that will be played on Sunday, and I particularly don't plan to watch the games that will have an impact on our chances of going to the playoffs. I'm content just to catch those scores later in the day.

There isn't much we can do about the situation at this point except to win out the rest of our games. Since the start of training camp it's been our primary goal to reach the postseason, and if that doesn't happen we'll all be disappointed. If the worst-case scenario comes about and we don't play into January, I think all of us will just work that much harder during the offseason to be sure we'll be in the playoffs a year from now.

Last weekend's game was a tough one, although we pretty much saw what we expected to see from the Saints. We were all glad to come out of it with the win in overtime. When a game is that close at the end, you really get upset if things don't end up going your way.

I was grateful to have had the opportunity to be in there a little more on special teams. It's a great way for a rookie to learn and develop.

What I've been doing primarily is getting down the field and making tackles. It's a different experience for me when that is my primary role. In college, except for freshman year when I did work kickoff situations, I spent most of my playing time as a primary receiver. That ability is what got me drafted. But I realize there are other things to learn in the pro game. I'm approaching this as the chance to add to my overall skill level.


WR Earl Bennett
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I think what I am able to bring to the special-teams unit is my speed and my ability to make the hits. As a receiver, I hope to show that I am strong in running routes. But it's up to the coaches where they put me on the field and when I'll be out there.

One question I had was whether we receivers are coached to play in such a way that we might encourage a pass interference penalty on those who are defending us. If you recall last week, Devin Hester got two calls like that against the Saints, and it made a tremendous advantage for us in field position.

Sure, we do work on that type of play during practice. But when you are out there, you are trying to read the particular situation. If it seems that one of the guys is defending you pretty close, then he might be a good candidate to get that call. The first intent is to catch the ball and to go with it, but if that doesn't work there are things that you can try to encourage your defender to follow you a little too closely. Obviously I won't go into greater detail than that, but I think every wide receiver is aware of the advantages of getting that call.

We're looking forward to Monday's game. Last time we faced Green Bay we didn't play up to our ability, so I think we all feel we have something to prove. This time it is a home game with our fans, and that makes a tremendous difference.

It will be cold, but I expect the game to be physical, fast-paced and played with a lot of intensity. And if the games affecting our playoff hopes don't go our way on Sunday we'll still be going all-out and playing for pride.

Earl Bennett writes his Rookie Diary with longtime correspondent Beth Gorr every week exclusively for BearReport.com.

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