FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Martellus Bennett is disputing the reason that the Green Bay Packers cited in releasing the tight end this week.
The New England Patriots claimed Bennett on Thursday, a day after he was waived by the Packers. The team cited a “failure to disclose a physical condition” as the reason for the move.
Bennett said in a lengthy post Friday on Instagram that the Packers examined his shoulder when he signed as a free agent in March and cleared him. Bennett says his shoulder got worse during the season and that he asked to have it checked after the 35-31 win on Oct. 8 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Bennett says he chose to have surgery but the Packers team physician, Pat McKenzie, “didn’t make me feel safe and was pushing to play.” Bennett says he got three other opinions who said that he needed to have the shoulder fixed.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone on Oct. 15 against Minnesota, a potential season-ending injury that hurt the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes.
During the bye week after the Oct. 22 loss to New Orleans, Bennett also posted a message on Instagram that indicated that he was contemplating retirement.
Bennett says he went off anti-inflammatory medicine during the bye week and asked to have it examined his first day back. Bennett took part in the first practice after the bye. But he went on the injury report at midweek before the loss on Monday night to the Detroit Lions with a shoulder injury. He did not play in the game.
Bennett says that the Packers “panicked” thinking that he was trying to go on injured reserve and “be on their books next year. … This was all about money.”
“I chose my health over my `team.’ They chose money over me,” Bennett wrote.
But Bennett practiced on Friday on his first day with his new team as a limited participant. He is listed as questionable for the Patriots’ game Sunday night against Denver.
It was unclear if the team would respond to Bennett. But current or former Packers took to social media to defend McKenzie.
“In my 10 years of being with the Packers organization and having multiple injuries and surgeries, I have never once felt pressure to play in a game,” receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed the 2015 season with a torn ACL, said on Twitter .
Nelson said McKenzie was cautious with injuries and “always puts the player’s health before the team.”
Former Packers fullback John Kuhn, who is on injured reserve with the New Orleans Saints, said on Twitter that he was never pressured to play in nine years in Green Bay. “In fact, I would argue that I pressured him to me play at times.”
Earlier Friday in Green Bay, coach Mike McCarthy said he had advised Bennett to get second opinions after coming in from the bye.
“He did that and he went to a number of them. The last medical conversation I was involved with in regards to Marty, they were talking about scheduling surgery, After that, then you have the termination and then the claim,” McCarthy said.
He declined comment on the Patriots picking up the tight end.
“I’ve answered the question for the last time respectfully,” McCarthy said about Bennett-related issues.