The art of the NFL sack dance has taken on a risqué undercurrent under the control of Seahawks defensive end/tackle Michael Bennett, and while his hip-wiggling, arm-pumping version of the Macarena isn’t exactly NSFW, Seattle’s sacks leader admits it’s not for the faint of heart.
Or the very young, either.
“I don’t let my kids watch it,” Bennett said Monday during a Super Bowl XLVIII interview session. “I tell my wife to black that part out.“
Teammates aren’t sure whether to gawk or look away. Earl Thomas, the All-Pro safety who teams up with Bennett in Seattle’s impressively loaded front seven, loves the reason behind the Bennett Hustle. But he also makes his young daughter turn away when Bennett’s 274-plus pounds start swaying.
Bennett has described his as-yet unnamed joyous reaction following one of his 8.5 sacks this season as “two angels dancing, while chocolate is coming from the heavens on a nice Sunday morning,” which has a sort of Quiet Storm vibe to it.
This much is certain: Bennett wasn’t doing a whole lot of celebrating in 2012, despite a career-high nine-sack season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that included 14 quarterback hits and 48 pressures in 985 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
One of the NFL’s finest rushers out of the 4-3, the gregarious Bennett was being smothered in Tampa Bay. And former Bucs coach Greg Schiano -- with his overbearing, overly disciplined approach to coaching -- was performing the chokehold on Bennett’s football happiness.
With no contract offer in hand, Bennett walked the plank in free agency to flee Schiano’s stifling and sinking ship, overlooking 30 other teams to get back where he started. He signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks worth about $5 million, and has become one of the best pressure defenders in the NFL under coach Pete Carroll.
“It isn’t about the money,” he said Monday of his very cap-friendly contract, which should balloon in the offseason if Bennett comes up big on Super Bowl Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2009, Bennett—the brother of Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett—signed with the Seahawks and made the final roster in camp, only to be waived in October 2009. Tampa Bay claimed him off waivers that season to replace the injured Gerald McCoy, and Bennett’s ability to apply inside pressure at tackle made him a key member of the Bucs’ defense.
Then came the tumultuous two-year Schiano era, and the two didn’t see eye-to-eye.
“I think he just wants to flex his power,” Bennett told NFL.com last fall, offering a strong opinion why Schiano’s Bucs were winless at that point. (Schiano has since been fired and replaced by Lovie Smith.) “He has small (man’s) syndrome. I still talk to guys who are there, and trust me, there’s not much respect for him in that locker room.
“He’s trying to be Belichick,” Bennett continued. “Yeah, some people think Belichick’s an (expletive), but he’s a legend. When this guy acts that way, it’s a whole different deal.”
Monday, Bennett was more diplomatic discussing the differences between Schiano and Carroll.
“They’re just very different guys. Schiano, he’s a hard-nosed guy. He’s a good coach,” Bennett said. “Pete , he just lets guys go out there and play to the best of their abilities. He’s just a laid-back coach.
“It’s a good fit for me, getting to play with these guys, especially the guys around me. There are so many great players – Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, just a lot of good players on the team.”
It’s also been a good reunion for the Seahawks. Excelling as a risk-taker on rushes and in running plays, Bennett returned a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown in the Week 13 Monday night victory over the Saints, then forced and recovered another fumble against New Orleans in the postseason. He pressured Colin Kaepernick heavily in the NFC Championship game win over the 49ers, drawing equally heavy praise from one of the most revered Seahawks of all-time.
“You’re the most opportunistic linemen I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hall of Famer Warren Moon told him amid the locker room celebration.
Said Bennett, “I just wanted to do the same thing I’ve always done. I wanted to improve each year and just get a chance to play on a really good team and be seen.
“Playing in Tampa, you’re not really on TV a lot, but, in Seattle, you’re on TV so much that people see you make those plays. (They are the) same plays that you made on the other team, but people see you make them.”
And they see you dance, even if your kids aren’t allowed to watch.