FOXBORO, Mass. — On paper, the tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett looks like the best the New England Patriots have boasted since the days of Gronk and Aaron Hernandez running wild through NFL defenses.
As he continues his integration into the Patriots’ offense, Bennett apparently has watched as much film from those days as humanly possible.
“I’ve seen every catch Aaron Hernandez made in this offense,” the 29-year-old said after Wednesday’s training camp practice. “All the plays, all the 12 personnels with him. I’ve watched big receivers. I’ve watched every tight end in the league, because I’m trying to add more things to my repertoire. I’m constantly learning how to play and how to get open, and I’m still a student of the game just like I’m a student of life.”
Hernandez appeared on the verge of superstardom before his football career ended in disgrace after the 2012 season. He averaged 652 receiving yards over his three seasons in New England. Since then, no Patriots tight end not named “Gronkowski” has amassed more than 300 total receiving yards.
Gronkowski is the best tight end in football, so he undoubtedly will remain atop the Patriots’ depth chart at the position. Bennett is well aware of this and said part of his preseason preparation has involved adjusting to life as a No. 2.
“When you’re not the guy — like, say, not the first guy — your mindset’s a bit different,” he said. “So, you’ve got to be ready at all times. You never know when the ball’s going to come your way. Just developing that mindset and the ability to make plays even if you don’t touch the ball for two periods, three periods, and be able to make a play.”
Bennett made several plays at the tail end of Wednesday’s training camp session, catching passes from Tom Brady on four of the quarterback’s final five throws.
“I’m getting better,” Bennett said. “It’s been a process. It’s a process any time you’re learning a new offense. This is my third offense in four years, so I’m just learning and trying to get on the same page and being able to do it fast so I’m not thinking out there. I’m still thinking a little bit, and the more repetition I get, the easier it’ll be (with) muscle memory and everything. It’s still a process. Still learning.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images