BOURBONNAIS – It’s a real drag when you lose in your own imaginary pool. I had Kyle Long and Stephen Paea for the first fight of training camp. I love when a guy fights for his job and his livelihood, so that’s no slap at those two players whatsoever. Perhaps that battle is still on the horizon.
But when tight end Martellus Bennett skirmished with first Chris Conte then Kelvin Hayden and Major Wright over a four- or five-minute stretch of Day 8 of Camp Trestman, I said godbye to to my imaginary winnings. Then I said game on, now it’s a real NFL camp.
Here are two things to know about NFL training camps. Basketball is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport, and it’s a given that eventually someone will hit someone else too hard, too high, too low or maybe from the blindside, and the recipient will retaliate.
I believe it’s a good thing when it finally happens because it signals the competition is on for real and it helps everyone refocus. I believe privately the coaches like it too as long as it’s contained and kept to a minimum.
I described Bennett’s battles with the secondary as skirmishes because in truth none rose to the level of an actual fight. They were baseball fights, a lot of glaring and staring, finger-pointing and holding on. But it was enough to tell us now we know these guys know why they’re here.
Conte did his best to low key the whole thing after practice.
“It’s just camp, that’s the way things are,” he said. “We’re a family, but brothers fight sometimes and we’re all good afterwards.”
I expect that’s true, but it does beg the question why Bennett found other “brothers” to fight with after Conte, who all happened to play the same position.
After the Bennett and Wright square dance, coach Marc Trestman called the team together.
“He just told us to calm down and make sure cooler heads prevailed,” Conte said.
Trestman didn’t appear at all concerned that Bennett was involved repeatedly.
“This is training camp (it’ll happen) and he’s working as hard as anyone on the team,” Trestman said. “I don’t think it lingered. It’ll happen in a game, a guy’s going to lose his mind, and that’s what happened. The team has to bring him along, and I think they did.”
Really, the most surprising part of all the turmoil was that it was Bennett at the center of it all. To date he had been the media darling of camp, never missing an available recorder, microphone or camera and acting as if in addition to being the club’s new tight end that he is social director and everyone’s best friend as well.
Bennett had two points to make, as he explained: “I am actually a mean person. I know you think I joke around and [stuff], but I am not. I am very aggressive. They are aggressive with me, I am aggressive with them. You come hard at me, i come hard at you all day. I don’t back down from anything, anyone.
“That’s what we’re here for. Everybody is aggressive, everybody is a little tired, everybody is a little sore. Guys do something you don’t like, you just react.”
Bennett is right in his second comments. That is the cause of most training camp fights, and they are almost always much ado about nothing, other than to signal camp has now moved into the official battle-for-your-life stage.
I do believe one minor bit of speculation is fair, though, and I emphasize this is pure speculation. Can we read anything into the fact it was three-fifths of the Bears’ starting secondary who took on Bennett? Could it be the new tight end needs to move just a little slower in his obvious effort to become Chicago’s most visible Bear? Just something to think about.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.