Packers cut Martellus Bennett, abruptly ending his strange, short-lived tenure
GREEN BAY – Perhaps Martellus Bennett's most memorable play as a member of the Packers was also the low point of Green Bay's season – an inauspicious drop of the pass Aaron Rodgers threw him as he was being slammed to the ground and having his collarbone broken – and it might also be part of the reason why the veteran tight end is now no longer with the team and, possibly, done playing football for good.
There's a whole lot of vague speculation in there, and we don't need to argue over it. What we know for sure is that Bennett was waived by the Packers on Wednesday, which abruptly and surprisingly ended his time with Green Bay. According to ESPN, the Packers cut Bennett with the failure to disclose a medical condition designation, setting the team up to file a grievance against the player and try to reclaim the remainder of his $6.3 million prorated signing bonus.
It's unclear if that medical condition is related to the shoulder issue for which Bennett has been listed on the team's official injury report since the bye. He missed the Packers' loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday night, and head coach Mike McCarthy had already said during his press conference earlier on Wednesday that Bennett would be out for this week's game against the Chicago Bears.
The news of his release Wednesday concludes a strange week for Bennett and the Packers, and culminates what now can be pretty fairly characterized as an unproductive, unsuccessful and ultimately ugly short-lived tenure with Green Bay. (For what it's worth, the extroverted and multi-talented Bennett was considered a positive force in the locker room and the local community.)
Bennett was signed to a three-year, $21 million free-agency contract by Ted Thompson in March to replace departed tight end Jared Cook, whom Rodgers had lobbied the team to bring back but later signed with the Oakland Raiders after Packers negotiations broke down. A thoughtful and outspoken figure, Bennett was a polarizing player among many Green Bay fans.
He made headlines for raising his fist during the national anthem in the preseason, was one of three players to sit during the anthem a couple weeks later and also was closely involved in writing the team's letter to its fans asking them to join in linking arms before the Week 4 game.
On the field, Bennett struggled to catch the ball and made far less of an impact than was expected from the former Bears and New England Patriots playmaker. In seven games, Bennett caught 24 passes for 233 yards (9.7 average) without a touchdown. He had four drops, and his 11.1 percent drop rate on targets was the second-most in the league among tight ends, according to ESPN. One of those four drops came on the critical play against Minnesota, where Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr hit Rodgers just after he threw the ball, resulting in the broken collarbone that might have ended the Packers quarterback's season.
During Green Bay's Week 8 bye, Bennett, out of nowhere, posted an Instagram story in which he said, "After conversations with my family, I'm pretty sure these next eight games will be the conclusion of my NFL career." The announcement seemed odd – as well as the fact that the Packers still had nine games left in their season, plus potential playoff contests – and it might have suggested to the team and its fans that Bennett was no longer all-in, so to speak, if he had ever really been all-in this year. No doubt, it surely concerned the Packers, who'd signed him to a three-year deal, and probably irked his teammates, given Rodgers had just gone down two weeks earlier and they needed Bennett's help more than ever.
Did Rodgers' injury, and the Packers' bleak prospects without him, spur Bennett's retirement announcement, or contribute to his failure to disclose a medical condition? We don't know. Bennett, who was friendly and honest with the media during training camp and the first month of the season, hadn't spoken publicly to the press since Oct. 12. He wasn't available this week, while being listed on the injury report, and other than ruling him out for the game, McCarthy on Wednesday only said that Bennett was getting a number of medical opinions and working through some things.
Green Bay will now turn to Richard Rodgers and Lance Kendricks at tight end and try to reclaim some $4 million of Bennett's signing bonus. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers remains sidelined, Brett Hundley doesn't look much improved at quarterback, right tackle Bryan Bulaga is out the rest of the year with an ACL injury and the defense still can't stop anyone.
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Perhaps, relatively healthy at 30 years old and after 10 NFL seasons, Bennett – who has a wife and daughter in Chicago, a company called The Imagination Agency at which he's the creative director, myriad off-the-field interests in business, entrepreneurship, activism and social justice, and undoubtedly future opportunities in entertainment and broadcasting – is happy enough to be waived and able to walk away.
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