LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett said Thursday that he expects to be active for the regular-season opener versus the Bengals at Soldier Field, despite missing all four preseason games because of a concussion he suffered Aug. 3 at practice.
The slot receiver received medical clearance to return to practice at the beginning of the week and participated fully on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the league’s official injury report.
“I’m feeling good and I’m excited about this weekend,” Bennett said. “My plans are to play this weekend. We’re on course right now.”
Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer later confirmed that Bennett does indeed have a role in the Week 1 game plan.
“Earl Bennett will be working in,” Kromer said. “He’s not one of the two starters, obviously, but he’ll be working in and getting his reps, and we’ll see how he does. If he does well, he’ll play more; if he doesn’t, we’ll see who else we can get.”
The Bears took an extremely cautious approach with Bennett during his recovery, but the receiver tried his best to keep himself immersed in the offense, even though he had to deal with certain limitations because of his sensitivity to light.
“I couldn't look at my iPad, but I kind of snuck a look at it from time to time to stay abreast of what was going into the offense,” Bennett said. “But when I got out here, I had to understand a couple of the tweaks they were doing on the field that I wasn’t able to see.”
When healthy, Bennett has proved to be a productive contributor on offense throughout his five-year NFL career, with his best season coming in 2009 when he set career highs of 54 receptions and 717 yards. However, Bennett sustained a pair of serious injuries the last two years that led to his sitting out nine regular-season contests in that span of time.
However, Bennett has enjoyed success when active. Following a five-week absence in 2011 because of a lacerated liver, Bennett caught five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in a Bears road victory in Philadelphia on "Monday Night Football." Last season, after being forced to miss two straight games due to a concussion, Bennett topped the team with five receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown in the regular-season finale versus the Detroit Lions.
That's the type of impact Bennett believes he can have in new coach Marc Trestman’s offense.
“This is a wide receiver-friendly offense,” Bennett said. “You never know who is going to get the ball and we have multiple formations. There are multiple guys that can come into the game, and we can move around and all these guys can make plays. I’m just looking forward to the game. I know the coaches are going to create a lot of mismatches to give guys opportunities to make plays.”