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New Bears tight end Martellus Bennett quickly at head of the class

Chicago Bears Martellus Bennett during practice Halas Hall Lake Forest Ill. Thursday April 18 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

Chicago Bears Martellus Bennett during practice at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Thursday, April 18, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 19, 2013 12:38PM



The diligent side of tight end Martellus Bennett — quarterback Jay Cutler’s new big weapon — has emerged during the Bears’ voluntary minicamp, erasing any concerns about how his eccentric, outgoing personality would blend into the Bears locker room.

‘‘He’s a student,” Bears tight end coach Andy Bischoff said Thursday after the third day of minicamp. ‘‘He’s writing everything down. He’s asking questions. He wants to be coached. Really, in every possible way, he’s been a joy.’’

Bennett signed a four-year deal to be the versatile, pass-catching threat the Bears didn’t have at tight end the last two seasons. He also brings a lightheartedness to the team.

Bischoff said he connected with Bennett at dinner after his introductory news conference. He described Bennett as a player who sits in the front row in meetings and ‘‘next to the youngest guy in the room.’’

‘‘He’s often involved in suggestions and mentorship in the right way,’’ Bischoff said. ‘‘He’s not overstepping the guidelines of a coach, but really just reinforcing the player. He’s been a leader. He wants to be the leader of that group. He’s been doing it quietly. The personality comes out in non-football-related deals. He’s been wonderful.’’

E-Rod on the go

Evan Rodriguez practiced at fullback in minicamp, but a hybrid role still could be in his future.

‘‘Given the numbers in this camp, we just made a football decision of where we wanted to use him this week,’’ Bischoff said. ‘‘But we still certainly recognize his versatility. And we meet as a whole group so he’s able to grasp the concepts about the Y-position, the F-position. He’s able to get all that information.’’

Rodriguez was arrested in March, which angered general manager Phil Emery, but Bischoff said he has been very “low maintenance” during minicamp.

‘‘He’s in the meetings. His eyes are wide open. He’s sitting right with the group with a smile on his face,’’ Bischoff said. ‘‘It’s not that we didn’t expect it, but it’s been a very, very positive start in terms of just the demeanor of all the guys. He’s no different.’’

Hester past retirement talk

Kick returner Devin Hester continued to be one of the big story lines of minicamp. On Thursday, the veteran reflected on the comments he made about retirement just moments after Lovie Smith was fired on Dec. 31.

‘‘I’m just focusing on this year. That was in the past,’’ Hester said. ‘‘I was just emotionally upset. I wasn’t really thinking about what I was saying. You say things you don’t really mean. That’s how I was.’’

The rundown

Coach Marc Trestman said ‘‘everybody came out healthy’’ after three days of on-the-field work. He shortened practice Thursday to ensure that.

‘‘Guys have worked very hard. They’ve run hard here,’’ he said. ‘‘I wanted to make sure we left with no pulls or any injury-ridden players.’’

† Receiver Brandon Marshall and defensive tackle Henry Melton were absent during the on-the-field workouts Thursday as storms and flooding prevented on-time arrivals, Trestman said.

† The Bears waived guard Chris Riley.



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