A surreal week indeed. At the beginning of the week, then-Packers tight end, Martellus Bennett was already ruled out of the Packers games against the Bears Sunday afternoon. Then craziness ensued. The Packers eventually released Bennett, their big free agent signee, and every team passed on him, except the New England Patriots.
“I think the group of guys on this team couldn’t be a better place for me in what I’m going through right now and my situation,” said Bennett after the win over the Broncos. “It couldn’t have been a better place, all of the familiar faces and things like that and it’s good to have those guys around.”
After being released by the Packers, Bennett was content with it being the end of his season. He was planning a bit of soul searching and surgery on his injured shoulder. He reportedly went as far as telling his agent to inform teams not to claim him because of his intentions of having surgery. Bill Belichick and the Patriots claimed him anyways and Bennett listened. In the blink of an eye, Bennett found himself in the Patriots lineup against the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.
“It’s not about could you play? It’s about should you play? It was one of those things,” said Bennett. “Right now, I’m just [expletive] it. When Bill called me after they said they claimed me, at first I told my agent to tell no teams to claim me because I was still trying to get the surgery or whatever. When Bill called after they claimed me, I was [expletive] and then he was like ‘What’s going on? I told him and then we had a quick conversation and then I told him I’ll think about it and I’ll call you back.”
In 16 games with New England in 2016, Bennett hauled in 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns. After just seven games with the Packers, Bennett returned and caught three passes on three targets for 38 yards, including running over a Denver defender …shoulder first.
Bennett was not the only one happy he was back with the Patriots. Quarterback, Tom Brady, now has his towering pair of tight ends with Bennett and Gronkowski that Patriots fans got just a taste of last season. With recent struggles in the red zone and injuries to receivers like Chris Hogan, Bennett’s return could not have been at a better time.
“He did a great job coming in on a Friday,” said Brady on Bennett. “I love having Martellus on our team. He adds a lot and he is a great player. He was with us last year and hopefully, we keep building on it.”
The addition of Bennett has seemed to light a bit of a fire under Dwayne Allen, who, through eight games, had failed to catch a single pass. However, that changed against the Broncos. First, he nearly hauled in an early Tom Brady touchdown, however, a great defensive play by the Broncos secondary prevented that. Allen would not be denied as later in the game he did hold on to the ball for his first catch and touchdown as a Patriot.
“It’s huge,” Gronkowski said on the contributions from Bennett and Allen. “It’s great to see those guys contributing like that. The first under with Marty went for like 20-plus yards. It helps out. That’s huge. Seeing Dwayne get that TD, I was so happy for him when he got that. It was great to see that and just everyone contributing in our group.”
Despite the Broncos talent on defense, they were unable to slow down the tight ends. Not only could they not cover, the extra attention paid to Gronkowski and company led to wide open holes for the running backs to do damage. Most notably, on Brady’s first touchdown pass to Burkhead, Gronkowski drew three defenders away from the middle of the field to open up the lane.
Now, with Bennett, the Patriots offense becomes a bit more unstoppable. Chris Hogan will be back and Bennett will eventually be a bigger part of the gameplan moving forward as the Patriots continue their march towards a second straight Super Bowl and their third in the last four years.
“So, I thought I was done,” said Bennett. “I was making plans to get a desk job … to finish up the season. It was interesting. But it is what it is.”
– Ian Glendon is the National Editor for cover32 and the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots. He covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on Follow @iglen31 Follow @cover32_NE and Facebook.