LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Martellus Bennett picked up the phone shortly after the team’s 6 a.m. arrival Saturday from the trip to Oakland, Calif., and called fellow tight end Fendi Onobun, who was feeling down after dropping what should have been a touchdown during Chicago’s 34-26 win over the Raiders.
“I told him, ‘Come by the crib,’” Bennett explained.
Once Onobun arrived, he and Bennett sat on a couch for four hours engaged in what the veteran tight end described as a “heart-to-heart” conversation.
“I was just telling him that I think he just gets to the point where he just thinks football, football, football,” Bennett said. “But you can lose yourself. Football is not who we are; it’s what we do. Sometimes, when it becomes who you are, you kind of lose yourself. Every little thing that goes wrong with it, it affects you in a major way instead of (you) being able to deal with the adversity. Bad stuff happens in football. You’re going to have the drops.”
In Onobun’s case, he suffered two against the Raiders, including a first-quarter drop from Jay Cutler that should have gone for a 26-yard touchdown.
“I don’t want to say (he was) too rattled,” Bennett said. “It’s just one of those things like you go out there, you work so hard every single day. He stays after (practice) catching the ball. He wants to do so well. You want to do so well. (When) things don’t go the way you want it to go, it affects him to another level than it does other guys.”
Bennett should know a little more about Onobun than most. The two were basketball teammates at Alief Taylor High School in Houston. Onobun never played high school football, and spent four years at Arizona as a basketball player before transferring to Houston to play football for one season. At Houston, Onobun caught two passes. But the St. Louis Rams still used a sixth-round pick to select him in the 2010 draft. Since then, Onobun has spent time with a total of six NFL teams.
“Fendi Onobun has had a very good camp, and has been uncharacteristically inconsistent in the games,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We have seen in the games. For those of you that have been to practice, you’ve seen things in practice that we haven’t seen in the games. Does that mean we’ve lost confidence? No. We’ve got to continue to have him work through it. This is really his first year of football and he’s shown the ability to do it. He’s just got to work through this phase when he gets under the lights (so) that he can continue to play as consistently, and I think he can do that down the road.”
But why hasn’t he?
“I can’t speak for that,” Trestman said. “I just think it’s the next stage in his development. We’re all pulling for him both in the locker room and on the field that he will continue to progress and get through this little batting slump he has been (going through) during the games that we really haven’t seen during practice.”
That’s why Bennett sat down Onobun on “this nice black leather couch” the veteran described as “straight from Italy, not American made."
While it’s possible Onobun might be overthinking the game, in part because of his background in basketball, Bennett downplayed that theory.
“We just sat down. We talked hours and hours, not just (about) football, but life in general,” Bennett said. “I told him, ‘Don’t let people use (your basketball background) as an excuse for you. You’ve been bouncing around the league a couple of years now. You can’t use that as a crutch. You’re a smart guy, graduated college.’ I didn’t graduate college, but he’s not smarter than me. He’s a smart guy. He gets it. But just letting your body do the work and not your mind, that’s what football is about.”