FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots are known as a team that values team unity over individuality. But one Patriots newcomer won’t settle for being just another face in the crowd.
That would be tight end Martellus Bennett, whose personality, outspokenness and quotability haven’t diminished one bit following his offseason trade from the Chicago Bears.
That personality shone through again Wednesday when Bennett was asked about a newly published ESPN The Magazine profile of him and his brother, the equally candid Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. Bennett spoke at length about the need for athletes to speak their minds and serve as positive role models for the younger generation.
“At the end of the day, I think everyone has to stand for something,” Bennett said after the Patriots wrapped up Day 6 of training camp. “I think nowadays, a lot of guys don’t have morals or don’t really stand for anything. Wherever the dollar takes them, or whatever brand it is that represents them, they do whatever that brand says, even if they believe in something different. The way me and my brother have always been has always been speak our minds and what we believe in. We stand for something. It’s like, you stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything. Whatever I believe in, I speak on that, and I’m very honest. I go about that, and that’s who I am.
“I learned from guys like Muhammad Ali, (Shaquille O’Neal) and those guys growing up — all those guys that were able to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s penning a letter called ‘Dear Black Boy’ that I put in The Players’ Tribune, or my brother talking, whatever it may be.
“We believe in these things, and we believe we can make a difference. We’re given a position of power where a lot of people look up to us — a lot of kids — so you have to stand for something. Otherwise the kids … we get on commercials and eat McDonald’s, and they think they can eat McDonald’s and make it to the NFL every day for lunch. But it’s not what it is. We all eat healthy, so that’s what we should be telling them. Because that’s what we’re doing.”
Bennett added that there are “a lot of athletes stepping up to the plate” in this regard, specifically naming his brother and New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. He also said part of what’s made his transition to New England so smooth is the Patriots’ willingness to let him be his unfiltered self.
“When I came here, no one asked me to be anyone else besides myself,” Bennett said. “And I think that’s one of the biggest things: the freedom they give me to be who I am. I think they understand I’m smarter than I look — I just look like this. But overall, they just let me be me, and I think that’s the biggest thing about making progress and getting to know everybody. When you’re able to be yourself, everyone’s able to see how authentic you are, and they understand how you are as a person. Not ‘one day I’m this person, and one day I’m that person.’ I’m not one to be like Nurse Jackie.”
Bennett is a rare breed of professional athlete, one who has various passions outside of his given sport and is not shy about pursuing them. He was sure to note, however, that he is just as committed to football as any other NFL player.
“I think that should be understood,” he said. “That’s what I do — I get paid to play football — so you should understand that I treat it like anything else. The off-the-field stuff, a lot of people are interested in it because it seems to be unique and different, but on the field, I take the same approach I take with any other subject I pick up, whether it’s movie-making or whether it’s wanting to learn more about finance or investments. I study the game every single day. We could be walking down the hallway, I have my iPad open, I’m studying plays. …
“I’m still a student of the game just like I’m a student of life.”
Thumbnail photo via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports Images