Bennett Rookie Diary: Final Entry

Chicago Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett finished his first season in the NFL without making a single catch, although the third-round draft pick is not to blame. In this final installment of his Rookie Diary, Bennett writes about the devastation of not making the playoffs and where he'll be this offseason.

It was a tremendous disappointment to lose the game against Houston. We went there intending to win and progress to the playoffs, and when that didn't happen, it was disheartening. For a while there we were in control of our own destiny, but in the end we just couldn't finish it out.

I'm not certain exactly what went wrong. Interestingly enough, Houston's field felt almost like a home game to us. There were fans in Bears jerseys all over the place. When the Texans' fans cheered they were loud, but when our fans made noise it was quite noticeable.

The game started fast, as most of our games have this season. We got points on the board and seemed to have things well under control. Some penalties didn't go Houston's way, and we were able to capitalize on that. From what I could see going into the second quarter, the momentum was very much on our side.

What happened from there on, I simply can't explain. It wasn't that we weren't up for this game. We had the intensity and the concentration to succeed. We knew it wouldn't be easy, but I think there was some degree of optimism going in as we were the team that had something to play for. Everybody was well aware of what was at stake for Chicago.

Some fumbles, some missed plays and things turned in favor of the Texans. We just couldn't stop it, and we saw our season slipping away. It was horrible watching that unfold.

How was my play? I guess I did OK. I did have more on-field time this week. I got in at wide receiver near the end of the game, but I wasn't able to make the play I'd wanted to. The clock was winding down, and I really needed to make that catch. That was incredibly frustrating when I wasn't able to hold on.

In the end, the game slipped away and we knew our season was over much sooner than we'd hope it would be. The trip back to Halas Hall was pretty quiet. Everybody had their own thoughts about what happened, I guess.

I've been asked if much of the fault for the loss was due to a lack of capable wide receivers. Obviously that's a difficult thing for me to answer, as that is my position. From what I've seen all year, our guys are professional and talented. I certainly don't see a weakness there. And I can't say enough about Kyle Orton. He is in there working all of the time. He gives us the opportunity to make the big plays offensively.

The same goes for the coaching. I know there has been criticism in the media about that. From my point of view, our position coach and our offensive coordinator have done excellent jobs both in preparing us for games and in working on our skill levels during practice. I didn't see anything like a lack of preparation or a questionable game plan.

I think the answer is that sometimes things don't go the way you'd planned that they would. That was certainly true in this game. We saw nothing surprising from the Texans, but they ended up winning the game. I just don't see any way we should have prepared differently. Things just didn't go our way on Sunday, and that is something we'll have to live with the entire offseason.

How do I feel about missing the playoffs? Devastated – just the same as every other player on the team. From the first day of camp that was our goal, and it didn't happen. My hope is that it will motivate us to come back in the spring and play much harder. We definitely will have something to prove.

WR Earl Bennett
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

My offseason will be a busy one. I really have no vacation time other than a few days between now and Saturday. I'm returning to Vanderbilt to take a few courses for this upcoming semester. I'll be studying sociology primarily. I'll stay at school until April, when I'll be back here at Halas Hall ready to begin another season.

I've been asked what I learned this year beyond the basics such as the playbook. Here's what I can think of so far:

Getting to the playoffs is difficult and much harder than it looks when you are sitting at home and watching the games on television. There are just so many variables – injuries, weather, travel, things like that. Now I realize what an accomplishment it is to actually reach the Super Bowl.

The season is long, but it's not impossible physically. The secret is to rest whenever you can and eat exactly what the training staff tells you to.

Chicago fans are the best. I've seen quite a few stadiums in my first year, but I have to tell you, nothing is better than playing at Soldier Field.

I do have the ability to play at this level, but I have to be patient and trust that the coaches will bring me in when I can do the most good for the team. In the meantime, I need to be ready at all times to be able to contribute as much as I can.

Being a rookie is difficult, but the guys on this team are quality people. They don't harass you for no reason. I've been surprised just how helpful everybody has been. Any time I've had a question, it has been answered immediately and a number of players have remained on the field after practice just to help me learn. That surprised me.

This is a good team with considerable heart and talent. I think we will do well next year if we can put this disappointment behind us.

And one more thing. Will I be watching the playoffs? Simple answer: No.

Earl Bennett writes his Rookie Diary with longtime correspondent Beth Gorr every week exclusively for

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