FOXBORO, Mass. — Michael Bennett addressed reporters for roughly three minutes after Wednesday’s New England Patriots practice, the defensive end’s first since the team suspended him one game following an argument with position coach Bret Bielema.
Bennett fielded a variety of questions about his punishment, the disagreement that triggered it, his reduced role in the Patriots’ defense and whether he’d like to be traded ahead of next Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Here is the full transcript from his media scrum:
Question: Do you have any comment on what transpired and the suspension?
Bennett: “You already know everything. You tell me what happened.”
Well, I wasn’t there.
“It seems like everybody already made their opinions about it, so … It’s America. You can voice your opinion about how you feel about certain situations. That’s what I did.”
What’s your takeaway from what happened?
“I didn’t take away nothing. I got suspended, lost money. What am I supposed to take away from that? There’s no love lost, it’s just how it is.”
Are you happy here?
“It is what it is.”
Do you feel like you’re on good terms with the coaching staff?
“I don’t know. You’ve got to ask them.”
What’s your mindset going forward?
“Just be myself. You can’t really bite your tongue. Nobody else bites your tongue in the league. Everybody says how they feel. Just say how I feel and move on from it. We’re just all human. We all go through our own situations. You can have conversations and move on from it, and that’s how I feel about it.”
Has it been hard to be yourself here?
“No. It’s not hard to be yourself. Just playing is always one thing, but not playing is always another thing.”
Was the disagreement about playing time?
“I don’t know. No. It was just about life.”
Are you expecting to play Sunday?
“I’m always expecting to play.”
You described it as a philosophical difference. Was it football philosophy, at least, or was it something beyond the game?
There are teams in this league that could use a pass rusher. Would you want to be traded?
“That’s up to them. That’s up to the team and how they feel about it. I like playing here.”
Is what the Patriots are asking you to do a lot different than what you were doing in Seattle or Philly?
“What do you think?”
“Well, then you answered your question.”
How big of an adjustment has it been as a veteran who is used to playing a lot?
“It’s always an adjustment when you’re not playing, just getting used to it. But we’re winning, and that’s the most important thing for me as a teammate. But I think as an individual, you always want to play more and make some more plays. So it’s always that great balance between both.”
Do you like the challenges of your new role?
Are you happy playing here?
“It’s good. (Expletive), I’m just chillin’, so it’s good.”
Before his suspension, Bennett had been on the field for just 35.7 percent of New England’s defensive snaps, a sharp decline from his snap counts with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 (69.0 percent) and the Seattle Seahawks in 2017 (84.8 percent). The 33-year-old’s play time percentage decreased in each of the Patriots’ first six games, from 37 snaps in Week 1 to 11 snaps in Week 6.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to address Bennett’s return to practice during his Wednesday morning news conference.
“We’re on to this week,” Belichick said. “We’ve moved past a lot of things this week. We’re on to the Browns.”
Bennett has been productive in his limited opportunities (2 1/2 sacks, four quarterback hits, three tackles for loss) but has been an awkward fit for New England’s 3-4 defense, which the team switched to after trading for him this spring. Relying more on linebackers than on edge-rushing D-ends, the Patriots have held opponents to just three offensive touchdowns through seven games.
The Patriots can clear more than $2 million in salary cap space by trading Bennett but, per the terms of his contract, would save less than $1 million if they release him.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images