Newly acquired Patriots tight end Martelleus Bennett was on the field for seven snaps last night, catching three balls for 38 yards. It was a strange place for him to be, given that just days earlier he had been released by the Packers for failing to disclose what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury. So what gives?
After being released on Friday, Bennett unloaded on the Packers, claiming that the team knew about his injured shoulder when they signed him in March and refused to allow him to have surgery when he further injured it during the season. Bennett called out the Packers’ team doctor, Patrick McKenzie, by name, saying that McKenzie pressured him to play through his injury.
Those comments led to several current and former Packers rushing to McKenzie’s defense. Aaron Rodgers released a statement in support of McKenzie, as did former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. Former Packer Tom Crabtree went a step further, theorizing that Bennett was playing up the shoulder injury as a way to get out of Green Bay:
Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz was similarly skeptical while watching Bennett play yesterday:
After the game, Bennett reiterated that his shoulder is injured, telling reporters that he went to six or seven doctors seeking opinions on whether he should have season-ending surgery. He said he was planning on having the surgery until the Patriots reached out. From the Boston Herald:
“It’s not about, ‘Could you play?’ It’s, ‘Should you play?’ It was one of those things,” Bennett said. “Right now, I’m just like, (expletive) it. At first, I told my agent to tell no teams to claim me because I was still trying to get the surgery. So when Bill (Belichick) called and said they claimed me, I was like, ‘No (expletive) way.’ ”
And what allowed him to play through the injury yesterday?
So, yes, there’s definitely something strange going on here. It’s probably a stretch to say Bennett was completely faking his injury with the Packers in order to get himself cut. It’s more likely that he is far less willing to play through injury in order to catch passes from Brett Hundley than he is to do so on a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady.
Bennett’s relationship with the Packers has obviously soured, and there’s likely to be even more animosity in the future. According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the team is looking to recoup Bennett’s signing bonus, on the grounds that he did not inform them of the severity of his shoulder injury when he was signed.