Chicago Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett is so eager to get back out on the field that instead of taking the upcoming bye week period off for some rest and relaxation, Bennett plans to keep to his regular schedule of workouts at Halas Hall.
"Why would I go anywhere at this point?" Bennett said. "I've been rested up enough. I can hardly wait to get back to playing in a game. If this extra week of strength and conditioning helps me in that goal, then there is no way I'd consider being anywhere else but right here in Lake Forest."
Bennett has been sidelined since about midway through the Week 2 game against the New Orleans Saints, when he sustained a hard hit to the chest.
"Originally, right after the hit happened, they had to hold me back on the sidelines," Bennett said. "I saw no reason why I couldn't go right back out there and finish the game."
The Bears medical team vetoed that request and sent Bennett to the locker room to be checked out before allowing him back on the sidelines – but only as a spectator. It was one of the few times in his career he hadn't been able to finish a game.
Luckily for the Bears, his injuries didn't include any broken bones, but did involve some deep bruises that would have made it impossible for him to function at 100 percent in game-day situations.
"It was some sort of a contusion. I was black and blue all over my chest area and definitely sore pretty soon after it happened," said Bennett. "I hated to admit it but the team doctors made the right call."
Being inactive for a considerable period of time early in the season was not how he envisioned his role this year. He was a starter against Atlanta in Week 1, catching two passes for 11 yards, and had one catch for nine yards the following week against the Saints shortly before he went down.
In his four-year career with the Bears, Bennett has played in 42 games, including 20 starts, amassing 103 receptions for 1,298 yards. He served as Jay Cutler's go-to receiver during the one season the two played together at Vanderbilt. Bennett finished his collegiate career as the SEC's all-time leader in receptions with 236.
Rookie receiver Dane Sanzenbacher has stepped in during Bennett's absence.
"That was the one enjoyable part of this entire process," Bennett said. "I really enjoyed watching [the other receivers] working out there. Since I knew I wouldn't be directly involved in the game, I could relax some and see what they were doing. It was crazy good."
Bennett didn't limit his observations to the passing game.
"Our offense is definitely gaining momentum right now. Just look at Matt Forte, another crazy good guy. Seeing him make some of those cuts? Man, I thought there was no way he could get through in those situations. What a great sense of the field. Then there's Devin [Hester] and his NFL records. It's been a pleasure to watch him run."
At this point though, Bennett has had enough of sitting and watching his teammates play.
"I'm good to go. I thought I'd have a chance last week, but waiting until the bye week is over is fine too. I'm taking these last few days to be absolutely sure I am in top condition to contribute as I know I can. I should be in there against the Eagles. And I have to tell you, I can hardly wait."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.