Light touch helps keep game in perspective

Bears try to find right mixture of having fun and playing with purpose

The intersection between serious, down-to-earth business and relaxed, carefree fun in professional football often becomes congested and confusing.

As the Bears prepare to face the Packers on Monday night in Green Bay, we all are guilty of over-analyzing and over-emphasizing the importance of the NFC North contest.

It is even more important for the players themselves to take a deep breath, exhale and focus solely on their responsibilities. Bears Hall of Famer Walter Payton was a master at balancing a demanding work ethic with a playful sense of humor when it came to football.

The famous picture of Payton pulling down the shorts of teammate Matt Suhey right before the ball was snapped in practice is a lingering memory of Payton's playful nature.

When it comes to providing levity and perspective on the current Bears, tight end Martellus Bennett is the go-to guy.

"Playing football is what I do; it is not who I am," says Bennett, whose other interests include poetry, painting, fashion design and creative writing.

With backup quarterback Josh McCown taking the snaps in place of injured starter Jay Cutler now, Bennett warns his teammates don't worry, be happy.

"You can probably tell I am a very confident person," Bennett says. "I feel everyone else on the offense is as confident as me. I can feel it. It's just the vibe we have in that huddle. So it's just a matter of time before we make plays.

"(McCown) does a good job and it's the same confidence we have with him in the huddle. We have guys who are going to make plays. We just have to figure out ways to get them the ball. Jay is pretty calm, Josh is pretty calm. We all know Josh and we all love Josh."

That is not to say Bennett is all laughs and giggles when it comes time to perform the perfunctory duties of a tight end, including blocking.

"I take it pretty seriously," Bennett said. "Sometimes you have to chip (block), you know, to give the quarterback an extra second to throw the ball. It's tough because you have to give up a chance to run a deep route or something like that. You get stuck running flat routes, which sucks … but anything to help out the team."

On running plays, he says he just blocks to help Matt Forte or Michael Bush get an opening.

"Then I come back after I block on that play and I tell (the quarterback) I was open," Bennett adds with a laugh.

Bennett says he is not beyond lobbying to have more passes thrown his way with McCown replacing Cutler.

"I was joking with the guys. I said, 'Hey, Josh. Want to go to dinner this week?' Cutty is not my BFF for a couple more weeks, so I am going to make friends with Josh. He's my new BFF, so I will invite him to the house and see if he wants to play some video games."

Rookie right tackle Jordan Mills already has learned not to take himself too seriously as he prepares for his first game against the Packers.

"I still feel like a rookie because there are a lot of things I have to look forward to that I haven't seen," Mills says. "I am still taking it one step at a time, one day at a time."

During the Bears week off, the unassuming Mills says he went home to Louisiana where friends and family made a huge deal about him being an NFL player.

"I visited and just spent time with them," he says. "We watched college football and we watched (the NFL) on Sunday. I tried to enjoy my time with my family for the limited time we had. I was glad to be home.

"You know your parents are going to tell everybody: 'My son plays (in the NFL).'

"I don't like that kind of stuff and the spotlight. I am very reserved. Yeah, I am in the NFL, but I don't go around boasting about it. You see the veterans around here and how they act. They are very conservative. They don't act like: 'Oh, yeah, I am Jordan Mills. I'm in the NFL. I play for the Bears.'

"My parents are very proud. They want to boast about their child. But I just sit back and laugh and shake hands with people and tell them to have a good day. If I can make anybody smile for a day, it's worth it."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34

CHICAGO

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