I’ve been in a lot of philosophical debates over the years, but I’ve never had one that’s resulted in a suspension for conduct detrimental.
So, I would be interested to hear what philosophical conversation took place with Michael Bennett and Brett Bielema. To what extent did that conversation go outside the box? What words were said? Who was there? Was it something in front of the whole team?
We’ve all been there as players. In a high-intensity environment -- an environment where there’s a lot of stress on both you and your coaching staff every week -- you have moments where there’s an explosion. You yell at your coach or you and your coach have a disagreement, and you guys get after each other a little bit.
But usually after that takes place and everything settles, there’s a conversation that establishes, "I was wrong. I shouldn’t have handled it that way," and you move forward. And everybody recognizes that it’s somewhat part of the game.
There's another way to handle it, which is maybe more appropriate: You close the door and get a 1-on-1 with your coach. You can yell, you can talk it out, you can do whatever you need to do.
Sometimes that really is the best way to handle it: You’re showing respect for your coach and not disrespecting him by doing it in front of everybody.
Again, I don’t know the exact situation with Bennett, but it sounds like something that was a bit more than just a philosophical disagreement.
In terms of playing time, I think Bill Belichick makes that clear to everybody who comes to the New England Patriots.
I remember when the team got together my first time. He told us, "I want to make it very clear: You guys establish your playing time. I’m going to play the guys who I think put us in the best position and give us the best chance to win week in and week out. Regardless of who you are, regardless of how many Pro Bowls you’ve been in, it doesn’t matter.
"If a rookie free agent is outplaying the guy who’s been here for five years and has all the awards, then we’re going to play the rookie free agent. Because guess what? That guy is giving us the best opportunity to win."
He lets you know that. It’s not something that’s shocking to anybody in the building. It’s very evident to everyone there that Bill lays out the law.
If you don’t address a situation like Bennett’s, then it sends a message to your team that other guys might be able to do it.
So, I don’t think anything good can come out of it unless you do what you need to do in terms of a suspension or docking someone’s pay. Because you can’t have a team where people think they’re above the rules.
But when Bennett comes back, as you’ve seen Bill do time and time again, it’s business as usual. There won't be anything like, "Bennett’s coming back this week and we’re happy to have him."
No. It’s going to be right onto the next game, and he’s either going to fall in line or he’s not. That’s just how it goes.
Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.
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