Michael Bennett might say anything.
With cameras rolling in the locker room after the Seahawks’ season-opening loss to the Rams in St. Louis, he called himself a comically profane pejorative for having been offsides twice.
He neglected to mention that he was the defensive star of the game, with four tackles, all behind the Rams’ line of scrimmage, in a display of rare disruption by a defensive lineman.
Michael Bennett interviews can be like that: funny, provocative, insightful, irreverent, crude. Sometimes they can be all of those things at once, when it can feel like being taken on a joy ride through his mind on the back of a borrowed policeman’s bike.
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There may be scattershot declarations, diverging non sequiturs — a little Charles Barkley, a little Chris Rock; he’s the defensive line version of Richard Sherman, except with some down-home Texas A&M grittiness replacing Sherman’s Stanford polish.
But the most important message Bennett has sent this season came on opening day of training camp: When the Seahawks took roll, Bennett was there to simply say “present.”
In a season where Seahawks contracts and the slices of this delicious salary-cap pie are widely coveted, Bennett has been clear he wants more money.
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But unlike safety Kam Chancellor, another who has outplayed his paycheck and can hear the creaky footfalls of athletic obsolescence at his back, Michael Bennett not only showed up for work, he may be better than ever.
The contrasting approach to dealing with contract dissatisfaction was never more obvious than during the 34-31 overtime loss to the Rams on Sunday. The disgruntled Chancellor was elsewhere, and his replacement, the young and green Dion Bailey, slipped in coverage on an important late-game touchdown.
Bennett, meanwhile, was a nightmare for Rams blockers, who had to double-team him to keep him out of the backfield.
Maybe we shouldn’t spend too much time lauding the fact that Bennett only complained about his contract and threatened a holdout while Chancellor went all-out AWOL. After all, so many other players sign their deals, play hard and keep their complaints to themselves.
But Bennett has an argument that he plays a role rare among defensive linemen, which should increase his value. He’s a matchup headache because of his size and speed, with his under-appreciated talent being his hands: He’s so quick batting away the attempts of offensive linemen trying to control him.
We see him working at this at practice every day, before drills get going, shadow boxing, executing a series of practice moves that look like frantic, high-speed tai chi, or a Jackie Chan movie fight on fast forward.
It helps him wedge his way past the line and into the backfield to disrupt runs or sack quarterbacks. He’s annually among the league leaders in quarterback hurries, if not sacks.
I watched another mostly unseen facet of Bennett’s value before the Rams game, when the defensive line broke off on its own in the end zone, readying to begin those drills that get them loose and prepared.
Bennett was in the middle of that cluster, screaming so hard you could see the veins in his temples all the way from the press box. He was working these guys over, pumping them up, challenging them. His partners were bouncing and dancing, vibrating at an increasing frequency as Bennett picked up his intensity.
Bennett turns 30 in November. Before last season, he signed a four-year contract with $16 million guaranteed. That’s great money.
Surely he’s watching what is happening with Chancellor’s holdout. If the Seahawks in some way reward Chancellor for his persistence, Bennett will likely use some of his quickest moves to get up into the front office with his hand out for a little something extra.
Raises all around don’t look likely, but Bennett has shown something in the way he’s dealt with the situation.
If nothing else, he deserves a commendation for perfect attendance.