FOXBORO — Michael Bennett returned to the Patriots locker room this week after serving his team-imposed one-week suspension. The time off didn't seem to do much for his peace of mind.
"I didn't take away nothing," Bennett said when asked if he'd taken anything away from the incident that got him a week of unpaid leave. "I got suspended. Lost money. What am I supposed to take away from that? I mean it's no love lost. It's just how it is."
Bennett released a statement on Oct. 15 that said, "On Friday, I had a philosophical disagreement with my position coach that has led to my suspension. I apologize to my teammates for any distraction this may have caused.”
That Friday would've been the day after the Patriots beat the Giants at Gillette Stadium. Bennett played three first-half snaps and only four snaps total before a 35-14 Patriots win was in hand. Bret Bielema, Patriots defensive line coach, would've met with players the following day, which is when Bennett said their disagreement occurred.
Bennett was asked Wednesday if he's been put in situations by the Patriots that he wasn't put in as a member of the Eagles or Seahawks in recent years.
"What do you think," he asked? CLNS Media's Evan Lazar said he thought that was the case. "Well then you answered your question."
It's pretty clear that Bennett has been asked to take on a different role within the Patriots defense than the ones he occupied previously in his career. The schemes in Seattle and Philadelphia encourage more one-on-one play and more freelancing, according to one league source. The Patriots, meanwhile, stress the importance of synchronized plans up front in both running game and pass-rush situations.
Not only is the style of defense something Bennett has had to adapt to, but his individual role has also changed significantly. We took a close look at how Bennett has been used week-to-week, and what we found — beyond his decreasing snap counts — was fascinating.
Bennett played more than 70 percent of his plays on the edge for the Eagles in 2018. This year, he's been used as an interior player — over opposing offensive tackles, guards and centers — over 70 percent of the time. His last nine snaps against the Giants, with the game in hand, were his first of the season as a wide 9-technique end playing outside of tight ends.
The Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline is looming, and the Patriots could be looking to deal Bennett after trading for him this offseason and then giving him a raise before training camp. Asked if he'd like to be traded, Bennett deflected.
"It's up to them," he said. "It's up to the team, how they feel about it. I like playing here."
But asked moments earlier if he was happy in New England, he said, "It is what it is."
Bennett didn't shed much light on his disagreement with Bielema, but he did say, "I don't know, you gotta ask them," when asked if he felt like he was on good terms with the coaching staff.
"I mean, it's America," he said. "You can voice your opinion about how you feel about certain situations. That's what I did."
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Bill Belichick was asked if he'd moved on from Bennett's suspension and was ready for a fresh start.
"Yeah. We're on to this week," Belichick said. "We've moved past a lot of things this year. We're on to the Browns."
But will Bennett be moving onto the Browns game Sunday with his team? Still, after a week away, Bennett clearly wasn't thrilled about his situation with the team.
"Be myself," Bennett said of his mindset moving forward. "Can't really bite your tongue. Nobody else bites their tongue around the league. Everybody says how they feel. Just say how I feel and move on from it. We're just all human. We all go through our own situations. You can have conversations and move on from it. That's how I feel about it."
Has it been hard to be himself, he was asked?
"It's not hard to be yourself," he said. "I mean, Playing is always one thing. Not playing is always another thing."
Bennett said he is expecting to play Sunday, but given the way his workload has been trending — and given how well the Patriots defense has performed without him — it could be another disappointing weekend for him on the snap-count front.
Unless he somehow ends up on another roster in need of a pass-rusher between now and then.
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