A commentator’s seemingly innocuous remark about Michael Bennett’s role with the Eagles quietly became a subplot this week after the defensive end refused to speak to reporters.
Is the three-time Pro Bowl selection “none too happy” being a “backup” in Philadelphia, as NBC’s Cris Collinsworth indicated during the Eagles’ nationally televised opener? Only Bennett can say for sure, and he reportedly declined the opportunity when approached by team employees, while coaches denied knowledge of any issue when questioned.
But did Bennett’s actions betray the company line one week later when he appeared to take issue with being removed from a game? Good thing pictures are worth 1,000 words, because the 10th-year veteran had nothing to add, essentially telling the media “no comment,” which naturally only adds to the mystery.
So what are we to believe exactly?
For starters — see what we did there, Michael? — let’s revisit March, after Bennett was traded to the Eagles from the Seahawks.
“I think a great defensive line is about the rotation,” Bennett said.
“I’m comfortable with taking less plays, man.
“Just taking snaps off, being able to have a [longer] career, it’s something that every player wishes and dreams about. And this organization, when you think about play snaps and counts and keeping guys fresh for the moments that count.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s not about September or October or November; it’s about January and February.”
Bennett understood the situation he was walking into and not only seemed OK, but also enthusiastic. As recently as training camp, there was no sign of distress.
“Obviously I care [about starting]," Bennett said to NJ.com. “But at the same time I am not going to make it the most important thing to me. The most important thing for me is just getting in the game and playing as high as I can.”
Still fine. From July to September, with only two games in the books, how did we get to “none too happy?”
It’s entirely plausible Collinsworth’s anecdote was blown out of proportion. Bennett averaged eight sacks per season over the previous six. Yeah, the guy wants to play, and rightfully believes he should. Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s requesting a trade, either. Perhaps this is considered the coloring aspect of the color commentator job.
Furthermore, Bennett’s refusal to speak to the media may be the result of people twisting his words, not to hide his discontent. Wouldn’t be the first time somebody played that card in Philadelphia.
The controversy's very premise has flaws. While Bennett happened to finish fourth in snaps among Eagles ends against the Buccaneers in Week 2, he was just one snap behind Brandon Graham for most in the opener — hardly reason to complain.
And Bennett’s interaction with a coach on the sideline last week — anybody have a transcript? Otherwise, we might not want to put words in another person's mouth.
Then again, maybe Bennett was pissed. He played the fewest snaps of Eagles defensive ends against the Bucs, yet led the group in quarterback hits and matched Derek Barnett with a tackle for loss.
All of which suggests if there is anything to these rumors, maybe the best answer is simultaneously the easiest — the Eagles need to put Bennett on the field more.
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