FOXBORO -- Inside the Patriots locker room on Thursday, Martellus Bennett made it clear that he wasn't interested in commenting on another teammate's injury. All he wanted to do was worry about his own health.
"I just gotta make sure I'm ready to play," Bennett said before Patriots practice, and before the news broke that fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski would need to undergo back surgery.
"Only thing I can control is what's going on with my body. Cutting my grass before I cut someone else's."
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Bennett was later asked to expound on his lawn-care reference, which he did happily and with the help of a trip down memory lane.
"I don't cut my grass, but I grew up cutting the grass all the time," he said. "Now I'm fortunate enough . . . I pay to cut my grass, but then my grass only needs to be cut half the year because it's cold in Chicago at home. Plus, they do a way better job than I did. I used to have a lawn-mowing company when I was a kid.
"But I just use that analogy because a lot of people tend to other people's garden and never worry about the weeds in their own garden. Therefore your garden gets overflowed with weeds and your flowers die. But someone else's flowers look great because you're all in their business, in their soil, in their mulch, in their sh . . . cow manure."
Bennett will likely be leaned upon going forward in helping the Patriots dig out of a situation that, for their offense, stinks. With Gronkowski out indefinitely, per Pro Football Talk, Bennett is the only remaining tight end on the roster with significant game experience. Behind Bennett on the depth chart is Matt Lengel, who played in his first game of the season against the 49ers in Week 11.
Bennett is dealing with injuries of his own, including a shoulder issue that popped up on the injury report last week and an ankle ailment that has limited him in practice since beating the Browns in Cleveland in Week 5. Asked how he was feeling, Bennett replied, "pretty good."
"Just excited about another chance to compete and going out there this week," he added.
Bennett returned to Patriots practice on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's session. He was present at Wednesday's practice, riding a stationary bike during the media-availability portion. He said that later he got on the field for a closer look at the operation of the offense.
"You get mental reps, what you call mental reps," Bennett said. "You're out working and you see things developing different from on tape, where the quarterback is looking. Sometimes it's good to be behind the quarterback because you can see what they see and it's a different perspective. It's always good to be out there with your teammates as much as possible."
Asked if anything changes for him with Gronkowski out, Bennett said no.
"I've been doing the same thing all year," Bennett replied. "Not for me. It's consistent. It's the same for me."
Bennett has played through injury for much of the season, and he did again last weekend against the Jets after tweaking his right ankle. He's been active for all 11 games this season, and he's played 591 snaps -- most of any Patriots skill-position player except Julian Edelman (633) -- creating space in the running game as a blocker and hauling in 42 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns.
Perhaps now more than ever, with Gronkowski out for at least the remainder of the regular season, Bennett's availability to the Patriots will be critical moving forward.