FOXBORO -- Michael Bennett didn't look like a player who flew into town this morning, traveling from where he makes his home in Hawaii.
He matched up with two of New England's best offensive linemen in one-on-one periods and more than held his own. In 11-on-11 work, he looked quick off the ball, throwing his 275-pound body (and tiny shoulder pads) across the line of scrimmage with abandon.
Fresh off a plane, Bennett was also fresh off of three days away from Patriots training camp practices. Dealing with what he termed a family issue, he stayed away from Gillette Stadium until Sunday, jumping right into the team's second fully-padded practice.
In meeting with the reporters for the first time this summer, Bennett went out of his way to thank Bill Belichick for allowing him the time off he needed.
"I was lucky," Bennett said. "Coach Belichick – it's nice when you have a coach that sees you as a human, sees you as a human being, not just a number, and you're able to go talk to him, tell him what's going on, and you're able to go take care of it. That just makes you want to play harder for a coach. When he believes in you, and lets you take care of your family first."
He added: "I think everybody's always concerned about how their boss is going to take into consideration if something happens back home, but when you have a boss who respects you as a man, it's easy to go out there and play for him like that. I think for me, that's easy to look him in the eye and whatever he asks me to do, I'll do it simply because I know he respects me as a human being and I respect that."
Bennett insisted he was working out in the days he wasn't with the team and so he didn't need much time to get up to speed. Based on how he played -- even though he was matched up with players who had been on the field for three days -- it'd be hard to say he wasn't ready to go. He showed noticeable burst in the one-on-one session, locking horns with starters Marcus Cannon and later Shaq Mason.
Bennett was asked if it was important to him that he arrive and hit the ground running after time away.
"I mean, I just flew here this morning, so I just came right to practice," he said. "It's important – just the game. You want to prove to your teammates that you love the game. I grew up and this game has been a part of my life for over 20 years, so every time I step on the field and I've got teammates who believe in me, I just want to come out and show them that in every single moment, I'm going to try to go as hard as I can.
"When you're on a new team and you have to build new relationships, the only type of way to build new relationships is to show everyone the type of work ethic you've got, what you believe in, and how you carry yourself. Then, the relationship grows from there, especially when you've been in the league for a long time and you have to come to a new team. It's always good, you know you've got great leadership all over, and I'm just trying to learn from these guys."
He'll have ample opportunity to do just that now that he's in town and with one seemingly strong practice under his belt.
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