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.’ "