Seahawks’ Bennett does it his way
PHOENIX — An integral part of the seemingly impenetrable Seattle defense and a $28 million (and change) man, Michael Bennett took one of the more improbable roads to the Super Bowl.
He was jilted on draft day, not that it affected his belief system.
"Draft day was like seeing somebody you love marry somebody else," Bennett said. "It didn’t hurt my confidence. My mama had five kids before she was 20. I’ve shared a lot in my life. I’ve been through a lot."
Bennett figures he knows why the NFL originally passed, and it had little to do with football.
"They said it was something about character," said Bennett, who was a bit off the radar after he made only one start his senior season at Texas A&M. "Sometimes when you are in certain institutional places, they want you to be a certain type of person. But I’m not the average guy. I’m not going to thinking about football all the time. There are other things I want to do, I want to pursue. I enjoy reading. I’m just a different guy."
Imagine the squarest peg and the roundest hole in the football cosmos. There, in a way, is Bennett.
His gifts on the field are evident. Because of his versatility, he can line up from end to end and anywhere in between. He had seven sacks this season, including one on Aaron Rodgers that forced a fumble and turned into a safety when a Green Bay lineman fell on it in the Seahawks’ 36-16 victory in the first game of the season. He is one of the reasons the Seahawks are able to use a scheme that usually relies on four pass rushers for pressure, thus freeing the back seven to be at their Legion of Boom-ing best.
Then there is other Bennett, the one who borrowed a policeman’s bicycle and rode in around Century Link Field following the miraculous 28-22 overtime comeback victory in the rematch with the Packers in the NFC championship game.
"There is never a dull moment around Mike," fellow defensive lineman Cliff Avril said. "He keeps everything light. He’s funny. He’s a blast playing with. He somehow knows how to turn it on on game day and go out there and give it his all. To do that on game day and the next day cracking jokes is pretty impressive."
Bennett is in the early stages of writing a book and a TV show, both in collaboration with his wife. The show will be part sitcom, part drama, he said, while not wanting to give too much away as the couple shops it to production companies. He travels. Scuba dives.
He says whatever sounds right. Like this on media day: "I don’t listen to (Super Bowl halftime performer) Katy Perry. She doesn’t do it for me. I’m more Beyonce."
On his beard: "Moses had one. Genghis Khan had one. Jesus had one."
On his criteria for ticket distribution: "Did you pick me up as a kid? Do you know my favorite food? Did you give me a Christmas present?"
And his suggestion for New England’s preparation: "Today should be the sex cut-off day for the Patriots. It takes a lot of testosterone to beat us."
All are delivered with an impish smile on his face. No defensive lineman had more fun in the week leading up to the Super Bowl since the New York Giants’ Michael Strahan the last time the Patriots were in town. After retirement, Strahan became a media personality, working as an analyst for FOX NFL Sunday and co-hosting a morning talk show with Kelly Ripa.
"Michael (Bennett) is smart," Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman said. "Everybody says I don’t hold my tongue, but Michael Bennett must not have a hand to hold his tongue, because he says exactly what is on his mind, exactly how he sees it, regardless of the crowd or the circumstance.
"It allows guys to be comfortable, because you know he is always comfortable. That’s how our team is. On the field, we are about as competitive as you can be. But off the field, we’re probably the loosest team you will ever be around, because we have so many different personalities."
Bennett, 30, turned down more money and a chance to play with his brother, Martellus, with the Chicago Bears last offseason, to return to the Seahawks. It was not about the money, he said.
"If you look at all the great businesses," he said, rattling off Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo! "You look at the way they run their company: they let everybody be themselves. You see guys shooting basketball at lunch. You see guys riding around wherever they want, not getting caught in the old way of doing things where you have to wear a suit and you have to do this (because) it is the only way you can be successful.
"We’ve come up with a formula to let guys be themselves. You see when people are themselves, they are happier. They are more likely to do what you ask them to do. They are not depressed. They are happy to be at work. When you are happy at work, you are able to do things a lot better."