By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Michael Bennett and the Patriots just couldn’t seem to get on the same page in 2019. In March, the team acquired Bennett (along with a seventh-round draft choice) from the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth-round pick. The move was widely celebrated among both media and fans, especially given the loss of Trey Flowers in free agency.
Bennett wasn’t on the field for Patriots OTAs in the spring, then missed the first few days of training camp due to a personal matter. When he did return, he entered a crowded and competitive group of defensive ends. His snaps decreased game-by-game throughout the season. On Oct. 15, he was suspended a game after an incident with defensive line coach Bret Bielema, then was traded to Dallas a week later for a sixth round pick.
Bennett joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger & Mazz Wednesday, and discussed what he believes led to him not working out in New England.
As Bennett sees it, the emergence of linebackers like Jamie Collins and Shilique Calhoun rendered his perceived role irrelevant.
“I think things changed,” said Bennett. “I think Belichick is not going to, he can start off with one mindset and then look at what’s better for the team. Do we have a lot of defensive linemen? Do we have enough defensive linemen to rotate eight or do we have more linebackers? And I feel like they had more linebackers than they actually had defensive linemen. So I feel like that was a better scheme for that, because if we tried to do what we had rotating eight defensive linemen like the Cowboys, it wouldn’t have worked out as good because they didn’t have eight defensive linemen.
“We didn’t have four defensive ends who can rush the passer every single time. We had one or two. But we had more linebackers and more guys who were able to stand up, I felt like.”
There was a running theory among media and fans that Bennett’s lack of playing time was due to the Patriots ‘saving him’ for the playoffs. Bennett may have hinted at that at one point during his answers.
“Their plan was just different from what I’m used to doing. I’m used to be like, they know they’re going to be in the playoffs, you know, to go make a run. And when you’re an older guy, you just want to be in the game.”
Bennett also elaborated on his reported “disagreement” with Bret Bielema.
“Brett [Bielema] is a cool guy. I think we just, we had two people who believed in something strongly…I think for him, it’s different when you come from the collegiate level,” said Bennett. “I think the collegiate level, you come in and everything a coach says on the collegiate level people have to listen to. Now, you come to the NFL, these guys have been in or played more games than you’ve coached or they’ve been in big NFL games. They’ve made a lot of money. And now they want to be talked to as men. They’re not going to be talked to as you would talk to a child.
“You talked to people who have wives, who have kids, who have mortgages, and they want to be able to come to you and they want you to be honest.”
Former Patriots defensive tackle Mike Pennel, who was cut by the team during camp after signing a two-year deal in free agency, talked on Monday about how he never felt comfortable with Bielema and the Patriots coaching staff. Bennett mentioned that lack of honesty may have been the core of the issue.
“I think for him, that was what Mike [Pennel] really wanted. He wanted you to be honest. ‘Coach, where am I really at?’ If you change the depth chart, give me an opportunity to understand what I need to do to get my position back.’ I feel like for Mike, that’s where his battle was. And I think over at the end, it just didn’t fit for him.”
Bennett wasn’t all negative about his time in New England though. He had very high praise for former teammate Lawrence Guy.
“I think Lawrence Guy should have been in the Pro Bowl, in my perspective. I think sometimes defensive tackles get looked over because they don’t have the sack numbers. But Lawrence Guy, a guy who was able to play all up and down the line, they asked him to do a lot of stuff. I think he should definitely get a new contract when it comes down to it because he’s able to do so much for the defense.”
Finally, Bennett went into depth on his exit from New England, letting it be known that “I didn’t ask to be traded.” However, he did say there was a mutual understanding that the trade was a football Xs and Os move.
“I understood. I mean, me and Belichick, we didn’t, there was no disagreement. Belichick is straight up, ‘Hey, Mike, you know this is what we’re going to do’…Nothing happened with me and Belichick. I just think I didn’t fit into the scheme, schematically. They changed the whole defense. It was a defense that people had never seen before, really. Honestly a defense where you have one defense lineman, two, three linebackers down like it was just, it was just a different defense. So I guess I didn’t fit into that defensive scheme.”
You can listen to the full Felger & Mazz discussion with Michael Bennett here:
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.