Michael Bennett Dishes on NFL Hypocrisy, the Playoffs and What Scares HimJanuary 6, 2017
One of the most interesting men in sports, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, is on the phone, and almost immediately he has me thinking, contemplating and laughing.
On a Seahawks team full of highly intelligent men, Bennett stands out. In fact, Bennett stands out among most intelligent humans.
He is also one of the key cogs for a Seattle team making its fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs. During that span, the Seahawks have won three division titles, advanced to the Super Bowl twice (winning Super Bowl XLVIII) and were one horrid play call away from winning another.
Three front office executives, two from the AFC and one from the NFC, said their pseudo-surprise team is Seattle. Why? Because the Seahawks are capable of doing anything.
Yes, they bicker. Yes, they make mistakes. But Seattle is still dangerous. The team is still nasty, and it is more than capable of winning it all.
A big reason why is Bennett, a talkative, friendly and, on the field, highly disruptive player whom teams still fear. Off the field, in many ways, he is the league's worst nightmare. Like his brother in New England, Martellus, he's fearless in addressing any issue.
"The NFL doesn't want us to be individuals," Bennett told B/R. "Look at the NBA; they are allowed to market themselves and think about their life after basketball. The NFL is all about the shield, the shield, the shield. I could go on all day about the hypocrisy of that."
Bigger issues aside, there is a playoff bracket to prepare for, and though the Seahawks finished with a less than dominating 10-5-1 record, Bennett doesn't see the postseason field as anything to be nervous about.
"Only two things ever scared me: marriage and death," Bennett said. "One I did, and the other hasn't happened yet. We're too much of a veteran group to be scared of any team."
And why should they be? The Seahawks remain one of the league's most formidable franchises, and Bennett understands the league knows it.
"No one is underestimating us," he noted. "You don't underestimate greatness. We've made a couple of mistakes here and there, but that's what happens sometimes when you've been as good as we have, for as long as we have. We're ready. [Head coach] Pete [Carroll] has cemented the running game. We're the same dangerous team."
They open the postseason against the Detroit Lions at home in what should be a somewhat comfortable victory. After that, there isn't a team in the NFC they won't make nervous.
That isn't to say Bennett is underestimating anyone.
"When I look around the playoffs, I see some really good teams," Bennett said. "The Green Bay Packers are a really good team. Aaron Rodgers is playing amazing football. The Atlanta Falcons are good. Eli [Manning] has been there before. Look at the Dallas Cowboys. Look at that offensive line. I could run for 1,100 [yards] behind that line."
Bennett is 6'4" and 270 pounds, but you wouldn't put it past him.
To Bennett, however, this is a typically ferocious Seahawks team. While it's missing a significant force in safety Earl Thomas, who is out with a broken leg, Bennett still sees his defense as problematic for offenses.
"We have a lot of talent on this defense," he said. "And a lot of us are battle-tested."
Bennett even allowed himself to look ahead and consider that the stars might be aligning to set him in a matchup against his brother in the Super Bowl in Houston. The Bennett brothers played high school football there.
But they both seem to be enjoying where they're playing now. "He loves it there," Bennett said of Martellus' thoughts of playing for the New England Patriots. "He talks about how he's playing in a system where everyone buys in. Every player on the roster. That's different from some teams where only some guys buy in."
Bennett's journey has been remarkable as well. He mentioned that he was speaking with teammate Cliff Avril recently about how far so many players on the Seahawks, and others around the league, have come.
"I wasn't drafted," Bennett said. "I was seen as this guy who wasn't good enough to be on an NFL roster. Now I play with this great group of guys. It's been a blessing. I know how fortunate I am."
It's the NFL that's fortunate to have Bennett.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.