LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said Monday that, despite managing to appear in all 16 games, he played the bulk of the 2013 season with a torn medial collateral ligament and a separated shoulder.
In fact, Bennett's first season in Chicago (he signed a four-year, $20.4 million contract in March 2013) proved to be the most productive of his career. Despite the injuries, Bennett set career bests in receptions (65) and receiving yards (759) while also catching five touchdown passes.
"Last year I tore my MCL and separated my shoulder in the first three weeks of games," he said. "I played most of the year with a torn MCL and separated shoulder, so I was banged up the whole year."
Did the tight end undergo surgery to correct either problem?
"I don't do surgeries," Bennett said. "I'm like Wolverine."
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end has emerged as the Bears' most reliable threat in the passing game in the first quarter of the regular season. While Pro Bowl wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have dealt with ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively, Bennett leads the team with 29 catches for 295 yards. His four touchdown receptions are second only to Marshall's five.
Bennett had the best game of his seven-year career in the Bears' Week 4 loss to the Green Bay Packers, catching nine passes for 134 yards.
"I always felt explosive and I always felt strong and beastly on the field, but right now I think it's just getting a taste of success."Martellus Bennett
"I think overall it was just looking at the offense and what is expected of me, and what Jay [Cutler] wants," Bennett said about his fast start. "It's not what I want to do at work; it doesn't matter. That's why I try to have my own personal time before I get here in the mornings. So I try to do everything they want from me, the coaches. I got with [Matt] Forte [in the offseason] and we did a lot of running on a hill and more explosive stuff like that. I always felt explosive and I always felt strong and beastly on the field, but right now I think it's just getting a taste of success.
"I've been in the league for seven years, and for four years I was a backup. Everybody judged me on my production as a backup tight end, which I never really understood. People were like, he wasn't really that productive in Dallas with 30 catches as a backup tight end. I mean, that is productive for a backup tight end.
"Then my first year as a starter was in New York  and last year I felt like I started to find my groove," he said. "This year I feel like guys have to game-plan for me. I felt like I was game-planning for guys at first, but nobody was really worried about me. But now I feel like guys have to account for me because the way I go about my game and the things I learned throughout the journey of my career."