Michael Bennett is like Kam Chancellor. Except he’s playing.
Both are unhappy with their salaries for 2015. Both signed deals that the league’s market at their respective defensive positions has since eclipsed.
Unlike Chancellor, the Seahawks team leader who completed the 49th day of his holdout on Thursday and will miss his second consecutive game this weekend, Bennett is here with his teammates. Even though he, too, wants more money now, Bennett will be starting again Sunday night for Seattle in its NFC championship-game rematch at Green Bay.
Chancellor will not, at a cost of $535,294 and counting in lost game checks.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Bennett has been zooming into opposing backfields all summer and through last weekend’s opener at St. Louis. He said he went down to the final hours before training camp began July 31 before deciding to report on time. That was after he complained to anyone with two ears, a microphone and a notebook this offseason — even to a Honolulu reporter while he was at his family’s place in Hawaii — about the four-year, $28.5 million extension with $16 million he signed before last season. He feels his deal is too low as he excels at end on early downs and inside as a fast tackle on passing ones.
Like Chancellor, Bennett has three years remaining on his deal. The Seahawks are holding firm in not wanting to set the precedent of adding money to any contract that has that many seasons remaining on it.
So, yes, Bennett is viewing Chancellor’s holdout with keen personal interest.
“Of course I look,” Bennett said Thursday. “But at the end of the day my situation is different from his. I’ve got three kids and a wife. My wife wouldn’t let me hold out.”
Bennett said he respects what Chancellor is doing.
“But I know he respects what I’m doing, too,” Bennett said. “I just come back and try to work as hard as I can, show the team the type of leader than I am and the type of person that I am, what I am willing to do and how far I am willing to go when I play in the games.
“Kam sees that there’s a short window to make money, and he wants to make it. And I respect that and understand it.”
That’s the crux of the 27-year-old Chancellor’s impasse. It’s the ability to earn money now, before his oft-injured, almost habitually surgically repaired body and thumping playing style prevent him from being able to take the field in later seasons.
“In the NFL you have a short lifespan to make money,” Bennett said. “In the NFL, one year you can be great and the next year you can be bad.
“Your earning power is now.”
That common understanding among players is why Bennett says there are no hard feelings inside the Seahawks’ locker room over their team leader deserting his teammates and leaving a hole in the middle of what’s been the league’s top defense the last couple seasons.
“I think you can’t have hard feelings, because in the NFL they cut guys every day,” Bennett said. “In the NFL right now there is a guy who thinks he’s going to play on Sunday who will get cut on Friday, all because an organization feels they need to save money.
“Teams do it all the time. But when the team does it, it’s called business. When a player does it (it’s), ‘Oh, it’s he’s ungrateful,’ and the fans don’t understand it…. ‘Why would a guy want more money in the NFL? Isn’t he making enough?’
“Enough? Guys are putting their bodies on the line every day. They deal with pain, daily. And they want to be compensated fairly. As the (salary) cap goes up (annually), as the market goes up … he’s just being a business man. I think the fans don’t see it from a business perspective.”
Bennett mentioned at the start of training camp that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider had told him if he reported on time and did his job near the productiveness he did last season while being one of the NFC’s more disruptive defensive ends, the team would seek ways to improve his deal next spring.
So far, so good. Bennett has stormed through the preseason and opening game with the quickness he showed in 2014. He was one of the few bright spots on defense last weekend in Seattle’s 34-31 overtime loss at St. Louis.
Guard Josh Sitton is one of the Packers who will be trying to slow down Bennett Sunday at Lambeau Field. Sitton said of Bennett to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday in Green Bay: “I think he’s extremely underpaid. If he would like to hold out, he should do it now.”
Sorry, Sitton. Seattle’s going to have only one holdout missing Sunday’s game.
Does Bennett think he’s being a good soldier, reporting on time and doing his job while Chancellor sits out at odds with the team will pay off for him after this season?
“I mean, it worked for Forrest Gump,” he said.
Jokes aside — or not, as is Bennett’s humorous nature — he says he won’t let his ongoing happiness with his contract distract him on the field. If it would, he’d have a another set of issues he’d rather avoid.
“If I go out there and think, ‘Oh, I should have held out because they are not going to do this for me.’ … the one time you are thinking about something out there, you will be knocked out,” Bennett said. “And then you have a concussion.
“And hopefully you can get some of Russell Wilson’s water so you can feel better.”
Recovery Water — made by Tacoma’s Reliant Beverage Company, in which Wilson invests — is what the quarterback said allowed him to stay in the game following a hard hit by Green Bay’s Clay Matthews in January’s NFC championship.
What would make Bennett and the Seahawks’ defense feel better would be for Chancellor to drop his stance and report to the team, pronto.
Not that Bennett is expecting that to happen.
“We miss Kam Chancellor, not just for the way that he plays but the way that he approaches the game. His leadership. (But) even though Kam Chancellor wasn’t in that game we had multiple chances to win that game,” Bennett said of St. Louis. “I wonder if the conversation would be the same if we had won the game. Would people be saying, ‘Hey, they don’t need Kam Chancellor’?
“It’s all about the wins and losses in this league. If we win on Sunday, people won’t be talking about it. But at the end of the day, we all want Kam to come back. But we all understand what his fight is, and we want him to get his just due. He’s one of the best safeties to play the game.
“We just want him to come back, and for him to understand there are no hard feelings for what he’s dealing with or what he’s going through.”
SUNDAY: Seattle (0-1) at Green Bay (1-0), 5:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 710-AM,