Patriots

Bennett says he told teams not to claim him, but Patriots came calling anyway

Bennett says he told teams not to claim him, but Patriots came calling anyway

DENVER -- Martellus Bennett was in uniform for the Patriots on Sunday night against the Broncos, catching three passes for 38 yards in his first game since re-joining the team as a waiver claim on Friday.

But what he did in his seven snaps at Sports Authority Field was not the story after the Patriots won, 41-16. The story, as it pertained to Bennett, was how he made his way back to the Patriots in the first place.

Following New England's seventh win of the season, Bennett spoke to reporters for the first time since being waived by the Packers with a "failure to disclose a physical condition" designation.

Bennett said that he told his agent to tell teams not to claim him. His shoulder was in bad shape, and he wanted to get surgery.

Still, the Patriots -- and Bill Belichick in particular -- came calling.

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"When Bill called and said they claimed me, I was like, ‘No [bleeping] way.’ Then he was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And I told him . . . We had a quick conversation and I was just like, ‘Let me think about it and I’ll call you back.’

“Even then, it wasn’t like, ‘Hey, you want to come?’ It was like, ‘Let me just call you back in a few minutes. Give me a chance to think about it and regroup.’ Because I don’t even know if I went through the seven stages of grief yet. I’m probably on Step 3.

"I think the group of guys on this team couldn’t be a better place for me to, with what I’m going through right now, this situation, it couldn’t be a better place for me, all the familiar faces and friends and things like that. It’s been good to have those guys around."

Bennett was asked why he decided he wanted to play with his shoulder in the condition it was in as a member of the Patriots when he wasn't willing to do the same as a member of the Packers.

“It wasn’t where I was, it was just about the injury,” Bennett said. “It was like one of those things, I talked to six or seven doctors about it and it could go either way. It was like one of those things I felt I should get fixed. And then after trying to get it fixed and getting waived, you just get that vengeance in your heart. It’s just like, ‘All right, that’s how you’re going to do it? Then [expletive] it. Let’s go ball.' "

Bennett's path to playing Sunday night was a circuitous one. He was claimed on Thursday, got on a plane, landed at 2:30 a.m., got to his hotel and then had to be at Gillette Stadium at 5:45 a.m. Friday morning.

Belichick then convinced Bennett, who was exhausted, to take a few reps during Friday's light practice.

"I think he knows how to talk to me too," Bennett said, "so I’m like, ‘All right, I’ll go out there.’ Next thing you know I’m back on the plane five hours to Denver."

Bennett knows he's been criticized for how things played out in Green Bay. His former teammates came to the defense of Packers team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie, and some made it known they felt like Bennett gave up on the team.

“I got criticism from all of my former organizations,” Bennett said. “I mean, [expletive]. At this point, it’s like I’m rubber and you're glue. Anything you say bounces off me and sticks back to you . . . 

"Like I told the guys, ‘In order for the Phoenix to be reborn, he must first turn to ashes.’ "

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

If the Patriots are about to go up against one of the more talented punters in the league, one way or another, you're bound to hear about it from Bill Belichick.

Sometimes Belichick will go into great detail on opposing punters in one of his weekly press conferences. Sometimes he'll go out of his way to highlight a punter during one of his "breakdowns" on Patriots.com. 

He went the latter route this week, gushing over Raiders punter Marquette King.

"We usually don't have the punters on the highlights here, but King's a very athletic punter," Belichick said. "He runs a lot of fakes, a guy you have to really be conscious of as a both holder on field goals and punts on fakes."

King is the No. 2 punter in the league when it comes to net punting (45.5 yards), and he's tenth in the league in terms of the number of punts dropped inside the 20-yard line. 

"King is an athletic guy," Belichick reiterated, "and he can change field-position big time."

Add him to the list of big-legged punters -- "weapons," if you will -- Belichick has praised in the past.

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