|No. 85, 80|
|Born:||March 23, 1987|
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||209 lb (95 kg)|
|High school:||Birmingham (AL) West End|
|NFL Draft:||2008 / Round: 3 / Pick: 70|
|* Offseason and/or practice squad member only|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Earl Bryan Bennett (born March 23, 1987) is a former American football wide receiver. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He played college football at Vanderbilt.
A three-time All-SEC selection at Vanderbilt, Bennett left school as the all-time SEC leader in receptions with 236. Although later surpassed by Jordan Matthews, Bennett still ranks near the top of Vanderbilt's career receiving leaderboards.
On April 2, 2009, Bennett's former teammate at Vanderbilt during the 2005 season, Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler was acquired by the Bears via a trade with the Denver Broncos. Bears head coach Lovie Smith said Bennett would be given "every opportunity" to win a spot as a starting receiver alongside Devin Hester in 2009. Bennett did just that during the course of mandatory mini-camp and training camp, as he showed an ability to make tough grabs in traffic and a willingness to go over the middle. Bennett and Cutler quickly regained the chemistry they shared on and off the field during their college years playing together at Vanderbilt. During that offseason, Bennett also changed his number from 85 to 80. (He tried to obtain his original college number 10, but since NFL rules prohibit players from changing numbers in the 80s to numbers in the 10s, he settled for 80 as it reminded him of Jerry Rice.)
Bennett was the only Bears receiver to catch at least 1 pass in each game played during the 16-Game regular season in which the Bears missed the playoffs. Bennett got off to a strong start in season in the Week 1 match-up against the Green Bay Packers, making seven catches for 66 yards. Two weeks later against the Seattle Seahawks, Bennett caught four passes for 80 yards. A week later against the Detroit Lions, Bennett returned four punts for a 15-yard average and a long of 25 yards in place of an injured Devin Hester. During Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons, Bennett caught four passes for 57 yards, including a clutch grab in the red zone in which Bennett took a big hit to still give Chicago a chance to win but eventually lost that game. In Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals, Bennett caught seven passes for 93 yards, but the Bears lost 41-21. In Week 16 against the division rival Minnesota Vikings, Bennett caught three passes for 35 yards, along with his second career receiving touchdown.
Bennett had a key two-point conversion against the Seattle Seahawks for his first points of the 2009 season and his career. Bennett caught his first career touchdown from Jay Cutler against the St. Louis Rams in Week 13 as well completing a career-long 71-yard pass reception.
Bennett finished the season with 717 yards on 54 catches with two receiving touchdowns and a punt return touchdown as well.
During Week 6 against the Seahawks, Bennett laid a devastating block on Seattle punter Jon Ryan, allowing teammate Devin Hester to return his second punt of the season for a touchdown. Bennett caught his third career receiving touchdown in Week 9 against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.
During the NFC Championship game, with Chicago trailing 21-7, Caleb Hanie, who was playing for an injured Jay Cutler, lofted a pass toward the left sideline to Bennett, who made Nick Collins whiff on the tackle and then raced untouched into the endzone for a 35-yard touchdown, but Green Bay still won the game 21-14.
In Week 2 against the Saints, Bennett was injured, and did not return to the game. This eventually created controversy in 2012 after the Saints were caught using a bounty program. In Week 9, Bennett's return helped the Bears defeat the Eagles with a touchdown pass. However, after the Eagles game, Bennett was fined $5,000 for wearing bright orange cleats. After he wore the shoes again against the Detroit Lions the following week, the league told him that wearing the shoes again will result in an increase of $5,000 in his fines. The league later informed him that wearing the cleats a third consecutive time will result in him being ejected and the Bears being penalized. After wearing the cleats in 2012 against the Lions, the league fined him once again. On December 12, Bennett was signed to a four-year extension, keeping him with the Bears through 2014.
In Week 17 against the Lions, Bennett caught five passes for 109 yards, a career best, and one touchdown. As a result, Bennett became the first Bears receiver besides Brandon Marshall to compile more than 80 yards in a game in 2012.
On March 18, 2014, Bennett was released by the Bears after refusing to have his salary reduced.
In 2012, Bennett held "The Prime Experience with Earl Bennett" at III Forks to help benefit his charity, "Earl Bennett's Legends for Literacy".
In January 2015, Bennett returned to Vanderbilt University to complete his educational studies degree from Peabody College of Education and Human Development.
Earl is married to Rekeshia Bennett. They have a son, Earl Bennett Jr. and a daughter, Skylah Bennett.