Michael Bennett was a bit tardy to Patriots training camp as the veteran defensive lineman was absent from the first three days due to a family matter. His presence was felt, however, on Sunday after Bennett jumped on a red-eye flight from Hawaii to New England, getting in the mix for the first time with his teammates since the summer break.
The 33-year-old joked that he “didn’t retire,” despite hearing murmurings that he may have. While Bennett didn’t dive into what exactly kept him away from the team for the start of camp, he did commend head coach Bill Belichick for his support over this situation.
“It’s nice when you have a coach that sees you as a human, sees you as a human being, not just a number and you’re able to go talk to him, tell him what’s going on, and you’re able to go take care of it,” Bennett told reporters Sunday.
“That just makes you want to play harder for a coach. When he believes in you, and lets you take care of your family first.”
Of course, asking for an excused absence from work can sometimes be a tall ask. When you add the wrinkle of Bill Belichick being your boss, that likely ramps up the nerves a tad.
“I think everybody’s always concerned about how their boss is going to take into consideration if something happens back home, but when you have a boss who respects you as a man, it’s easy to go out there and play for him like that,” he said. “I think for me, that’s easy to look him in the eye and whatever he asks me to do, I’ll do it simply because I know he respects me as a human being and I respect that.”
Bennett is about to enter his first season with the Patriots after the reigning Super Bowl champions acquired him (and a 2020 seventh round pick) in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a fifth rounder in 2020.
He’ll likely adopt a chunk of the 732 defensive snaps in 2018 left by fellow defensive lineman Trey Flowers, who inked a mega contract with the Detroit Lions at the start of free agency. For the Eagles last season, Bennett tallied 34 tackles, 30 quarterback hits and nine sacks. In the playoffs, he added six more tackles and a sack to his totals. That type of production should be well received from inside the Patriots locker room.
“You want to prove to your teammates that you love the game,” Bennett said. “I grew up and this game has been a part of my life for over 20 years, so every time I step on the field and I’ve got teammates who believe in me, I just want to come out and show them that in every single moment, I’m going to try to go as hard as I can.”