Patriots, Please Don’t Stop Martellus Bennett From Being Himself

FOXBORO, Mass. — There was a strong dichotomy between what two New England Patriots players had to say after Wednesday’s practice at the makeshift press conference wall alongside the Gillette Stadium practice fields.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stayed on script, even conceding the Patriots’ “culture” keeps him from thinking about the possibility that the four games he’ll play in place of Tom Brady could be a launching pad for his career with the potential for a giant salary.

Then there was Martellus Bennett, who perfectly used profanity to accentuate just how “(expletive) good” Rob Gronkowski is. He also explained why people call him the Kanye West of the NFL and why it’s important for players to stand for something.

Then there was the ESPN The Magazine feature on Bennett and his brother Michael, in which the Patriots tight end felt free to be himself around a reporter — something that seems discouraged in New England.

When Bennett signed, many wondered how he would adapt to the Patriot Way. Most assumed he would clam up like Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson before him.

Bennett believes the Patriots will allow him to be himself.

“When I came here, no one asked me to be anybody else besides myself and I think that’s one of the biggest things — the freedom they give me to be who I am,” Bennett said. “I think they understand I’m smarter than I look, I just look like this. 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 understand who you are as a person, not one day I’m ‘this’ person and one day I’m ‘that’ person. I don’t want to be like Nurse Jackie.”

Let’s hope they will. Because Bennett’s brilliant quip about Eli Manning in the ESPN feature — “Eli? He’s cool. He’s like a normal white guy you see at the park trying to teach his kids how to play soccer and you know he can’t really play soccer himself.” — wasn’t just NFL funny, it was comedian funny. This is how funny, creative people speak, and it would be a shame if the Patriots silenced Martellus. Or punished him, like Wes Welker for his foot jokes.

Unfortunately, that Manning analogy could also be construed as dreaded “bulletin-board material.” The Patriots love hearing bulletin-board material, and they hate delivering it.

But one player’s witty observation isn’t going to win or lose a game. Bill Belichick has proved he’s willing to treat certain players differently. When Rob Gronkowski suffered an injury last season, the team ISSUED A STATEMENT. And Belichick tried to get out ahead of quarterback controversy by announcing Tom Brady would start Week 5 after serving his four-game suspension even if the company line is that every role is constantly up for grabs.

The Patriots knew what they were getting when they traded for Bennett this offseason. His wit and message deserve special treatment.

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

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