You know that kid in high school who could eat any spicy food, no matter how hot? They would go around gobbling ghost peppers, Carolina Reapers, or packets of “Fire” hot sauce from Taco Bell, one right after the other, just to prove they were tougher than everybody else. Then, when they asked other people whether or not they wanted to try one of the peppers and those people refused, they would say something like “Ugh, it’s really not that bad. You’re being a wimp.”
That’s when that person loses respect from their peers. Sure, they have a talent that some people find interesting, impressive, and sometimes admirable, but when it gets taken too far, it becomes an issue.
That’s basically what happened to Martellus Bennett yesterday.
Yesterday, former Patriots’ tight end Martellus Bennett went after 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for not playing through an injury in 2016, saying, “You can’t win with a b—-h at quarterback.”
In short, during Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for ‘Deflategate’ in 2016, Jimmy Garoppolo was forced to be the starter for the New England Patriots. Garoppolo led the team to a road victory against Arizona in Week 1 and was stellar the following week leading the Patriots to a 31-24 win over Miami, but was removed from the game near the end of the first half after suffering a shoulder injury. This injury forced Garoppolo to miss Weeks 3 and 4 of the season, pinning New England’s starting QB duties on third-round rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Brissett dominated the Texans on Thursday night to push the Pats to 3-0 on the season, but the N.C. State product also suffered an injury in his throwing hand that game, forcing the Patriots to play with an injured quarterback in Week 4. The Patriots subsequently got shut out by Buffalo, 16-0.
While speaking on the podcast “Double Coverage,” hosted by the McCourty twins, Devin and Jason — both of whom have played for the Patriots in their careers — Bennett blamed Garoppolo for that Week 4 loss. He claims that Garoppolo made the decision not to play right before the start of the game, and that’s what forced Brissett to take over the starting role with a “f——d up thumb.” Bennett went on to say that he doesn’t blame Garoppolo for wanting to take care of his body, but that he should’ve made the decision not to play earlier in the week so the team could better prepare for Brissett as their quarterback.
A few things come to mind from this. For one, I understand Bennett expecting his teammates to step up when they’re needed. Bennett is one of the toughest, most “I fight to win” dudes I’ve ever seen suit up in the NFL. Let’s not forget the time Bennett went after the entire Bears organization for defending himself after being taken down by the facemask in practice.
The only thing is that not everybody is as tough as Bennett. While there have been dozens of instances where players have played through injuries and helped their teams drastically in times of need (i.e.: Alex Mack playing on a broken leg in the Super Bowl, Steve McNair playing for five weeks with a bruised sternum before agreeing to get surgery, etc.) the NFL has changed. Players aren’t expected to play uncomfortably anymore, and while that makes playing through injury potentially all the more admirable, you can’t blame anybody for wanting to save their body. In a sport where players may only last about three years, staying healthy is extraordinarily important if they want to set themselves up for life.
Also, encouraging a player to play when they know they won’t help the team can only do damage. You know who probably understood Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury more than Bennett? Jimmy Garoppolo. If he didn’t think he could play, then he couldn’t play. Now, the argument could be made that he could play better than Brissett, who could barely grip a football let alone throw one, but Jimmy G said he couldn’t play, and since I can’t possibly know what was going on inside Jimmy G’s brain that Sunday in 2016, I can’t say he was, as Bennett put it, “being a b—-h.”
Secondly, it shouldn’t matter when Jimmy G decided not to play. If anything, deciding to announce his inability to play right before the game only points to the idea that Garoppolo absolutely wanted to play in that Week 4 game, but was holding off on making a decision in the hopes that he’d be at 100 percent before kickoff. By limiting his availability three days prior, Garoppolo would be effectively removing himself from a game that he could potentially play in. If Garoppolo thought there was any chance he could play, don’t you think removing himself from the game plan would be detrimental to the team if they found out he was healthy. Best-case scenario, the Patriots go into that game with a quarterback who can’t throw the football and three days more prep than they originally had. I know Buffalo wasn’t a fantastic team that season, but that’s very likely still a loss.
Finally, let’s not forget that in 2017, Martellus Bennett was released by the Green Bay Packers after refusing to play through injury. Bennett’s body had taken a toll over the course of his decade-long tenure in the NFL, and even took to Instagram to declare that, after being released by the Packers, his career was likely over.
Bennett even told teams not to sign him after he was released, so that he could focus on recovery and retire. Still, Bennett signed with the Patriots less than a week after being released by Green Bay. Bennett lasted only two games with the Patriots before succumbing to shoulder and hamstring injuries.
So clearly, Bennett believes it’s OK to sit out or even step away from your team entirely when you can’t play, but when somebody else is going through a similar situation… now there’s a problem.
I get where Bennett was coming from with his criticism of Jimmy Garoppolo, but it’s highly unlikely Garoppolo was intentionally sabotaging his team. Sure, it would’ve been great for the Patriots to go undefeated in 2016 (they went 14-2), but as we’ve seen from teams like the 2007 Patriots and 2016 Golden State Warriors, chasing those regular season win totals can make a team lose sight of the ultimate goal. The Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2016, so who cares about a regular season game early in the season?