Matt Cassel: Making sense of Michael Bennett's 'philosophical disagreement'

Matt Cassel: Making sense of Michael Bennett's 'philosophical disagreement'

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

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Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Why in God’s name do I keep reading and hearing “Cam Newton” and “Patriots” in the same sentence?  

Or Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton or any other backsliding veteran on the free-agent quarterback market?

Are people insane? Were they slumbering for the past 19 years? Or just a little forgetful?

The lead mule pulling their wagon for the past 20 years was a sixth-round pick. The only guy that filled in for the aforementioned sixth-rounder over an extended period was a seventh-round pick. The guy who was supposed to succeed the sixth-rounder was a second-rounder from a Div. II school.

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Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo were all overlooked, undervalued and brought into the Patriots laboratory where they turned into either good, really good or legendary quarterbacks. The Patriots brew their own quarterbacks, thank you very much.

And with a one-year hitch in salary cap jail hanging over them, they are not going to be in the market for someone looking to make a seven or eight-figure salary who just flunked out of a lesser team’s program.

The Patriots make their own brew, thank you very much.

Bill Belichick has the helmeted heads of so many first-rounders and first-overall picks mounted on his wall that suggesting he’d be in the market for a live one makes no sense.

During Tom Brady’s long goodbye, I was told by team sources the Patriots weren’t going to be chasing a veteran “name.” And their actions since have signaled that.

They are going with their fairly-promising fourth-rounder, Jarrett Stidham, and they have Brian Hoyer (undrafted free agent who came into the league with the Patriots in 2009) to take the reins if the Coronavirus-marred offseason means Stidham’s not ready.

And, thanks to our Quarantine Question of the Day posed Monday morning on Twitter, it’s clear most Patriots fans think that’s the right approach.

Of the 5,148 votes cast in six hours, 64.6 percent of respondents chose “Ride with Stidham/Hoyer” as the preferred Patriots approach for 2020.

Meanwhile, 12.2 percent felt that bringing in a rookie to compete with Stidham was the move to make. I suggested either Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love in the poll. Others suggested different options to battle Stidham as Brady’s successor.

I jokingly included an option to trade with the Bucs for Brady. A significant portion (17.4 percent) of the populace thought that was a capital idea (even though Brady has a no-trade clause).

There was a suggestion I didn’t hate -- grabbing Niners backup Nick Mullens to come in and push Stidham.

The least popular option was recycling someone like Newton. That option drew just 5.8 percent of the vote.

And one respondent had a hard time making his selection at all.

It happens. We’ll be back later in the week with more QUARANTINE QUESTIONS OF THE DAY!!!!

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities', says Matthew Slater

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities', says Matthew Slater

Matthew Slater is the latest New England Patriots player to give a positive review of young quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and after not getting many regular season reps as a rookie, he's now the leading candidate to replace Tom Brady after the six-time Super Bowl champion left to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.

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Taking over for the greatest quarterback in NFL history will be an enormous challenge for Stidham (or whoever wins the starting job for Week 1), but Slater is optimistic about the 23-year-old's talent and mental makeup.

"He's a great kid, and I think that’s the thing that is going to matter the most with any player – who is he as a man, who is he as a person, what’s he motivated by? He’s just a great kid to be around," Slater said Monday during a media conference call. "He brings a lot of positive energy, he’s always got a smile on his face, and you can tell he’s very appreciative of the opportunity that he had last year and the opportunity that he’ll have going forward. So, certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn’t have brought him in here if they didn’t think he had those qualities.

"I think at that position, almost more than any other, it’s going to be the intangibles that get a guy to maybe a successful position. So, I think he’s got some good traits. I think he’s going to be a good player. His attack, his approach is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us. I think it’s important, and I’ll certainly encourage him, just to be himself – be himself, continue to be the person that he is, continue to be the teammate that he is, and we’ll just take this thing one day at a time."

Slater isn't the only Patriots player who's given a positive review of Stidham of late. Veteran safety Devin McCourty praised Stidham's poise and maturity (among other qualities) during a recent episode of his "Double Coverage" podcast and on a media conference call last week.

Stidham showed flashes of his exciting potential during last year's training camp and preseason, and now he should get the opportunity to prove he's capable of being a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Even though this will be a brand new and difficult challenge for him, he does have some good experience to help him. Stidham played against SEC competition for two years as Auburn's starting quarterback before spending all of 2019 learning from Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Patriots fans will love Slater's mindset on the team's 2020 goals