Ben­nett fo­cus­ing on present, get­ting re­set­tled with Pa­tri­ots

The Welland Tribune - - SPORTS - KYLE HIGHTOWER

BOS­TON — Martel­lus Ben­nett didn’t think he’d play foot­ball again this sea­son af­ter his un­ex­pected and con­tentious exit from the Green Bay Pack­ers last week.

The way he tells it, he was con­tem­plat­ing tak­ing a desk job or maybe even do­ing some­thing with Net­flix in the hours af­ter he was cut by the Green Bay Pack­ers for what they said was “fail­ing to dis­close a phys­i­cal con­di­tion.”

“I was just sit­ting on a bean bag, lit­er­ally feel­ing sorry for my­self,” Ben­nett said of his dis­agree­ment with the Pack­ers’ med­i­cal staff over a shoul­der in­jury.

When the Pack­ers de­cided to let him go, he had a de­ci­sion to make. Af­ter hav­ing a few tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions with Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick about the state of his shoul­der, New Eng­land picked him up off waivers. Fol­low­ing some quick soul search­ing, Ben­nett de­cided to play through his in­jury.

“It was one of those things I felt I should get fixed and then af­ter de­cid­ing to get it fixed and get­ting waived, you’ve got that vengeance in your heart and you’re just like ‘ All right, are you go­ing to do it?’ OK, let’s go ball,” Ben­nett said.

Ben­nett said in a post Fri­day on In­sta­gram that the Pack­ers ex­am­ined his shoul­der when he signed a three- year, $ 21 mil­lion free agent con­tract with them in March that in­cluded a $ 6.3 mil­lion sign­ing bonus.

But Ben­nett con­tends his shoul­der got pro­gres­sively worse dur­ing the sea­son and that he asked to have it checked af­ter the 35- 31 win on Oct. 8 against the Dal­las Cow­boys. The 30- year- old tight end says he wanted to opt for surgery, but that the team physi­cian was push­ing him to play.

“It wasn’t where I was, it was about the in­jury. It was one of those things where I talked to six or seven doc­tors about it and it could go ei­ther way,” he said.

Af­ter spend­ing just a day on the waiver wire, he finds him­self back with the team he won a Su­per Bowl with last sea­son.

And just like last sea­son, he could soon find him­self play­ing a vi­tal role for a team in mix for a sec­ond straight cham­pi­onship run.

De­spite hav­ing just two days to pre­pare af­ter ar­riv­ing in New Eng­land, Ben­nett was ac­tive in Sun­day’s 41- 16 win over the Den­ver Bron­cos, catch­ing three passes for 38 yards. He had 24 catches for 233 yards in seven games with the Pack­ers.

His ad­di­tion came at a good time for a New Eng­land of­fence that had got­ten lit­tle out of the tight end po­si­tion this sea­son be­yond Rob Gronkowski.

Dwayne Allen, whom the Pa­tri­ots traded for in the off- sea­son to re­place Ben­nett, didn’t have a catch in his first seven games. Allen caught his first pass off the sea­son — an 11- yard touch­down — against Den­ver.

Pa­tri­ots of­fen­sive co- or­di­na­tor Josh McDaniels said that Ben­nett is tak­ing on the chal­lenge of get­ting re- ac­cli­mated to his for­mer team as it pre­pares for Sun­day’s matchup with the Raiders in Mex­ico City.

“Marty had a good foun­da­tion from last sea­son be­ing here. He’s a smart guy, so it hasn’t taken him long,” McDaniels said. “He’s work­ing hard at it. He’s study­ing. He stud­ied hard just to be able to con­trib­ute some the other night, and he’s do­ing the same thing this week.”

Ben­nett said be­ing back in New Eng­land’s locker room has helped him com­part­men­tal­ize his feel­ings about how his brief ten­ure with Green Bay ended.

“I don’t even know if I went through the seven stages of grief yet,” Ben­nett said. “I’m prob­a­bly on step three, but I think the group of guys on this team couldn’t be a bet­ter place for me in what I’m go­ing through right now and my sit­u­a­tion.”

JACK DEMPSEY/ THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots tight end Martel­lus Ben­nett is tripped up by Den­ver Bron­cos free safety Dar­ian Ste­wart dur­ing their game on Sun­day. Ben­nett is still com­ing to terms with how his Green Bay ten­ure ended. But he says be­ing back in fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings is help­ing him to deal with it.

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