For the record, Michael Bennett has not experienced any hangover — even though he was unhappy with his contract last offseason and considered holding out, as Kam Chancellor actually did. Instead, Bennett has played as well as ever (a bunch of early offsides penalties notwithstanding) — and is coming off a 3.5-sack effort against San Francisco that earned him recognition as the NFC’s defensive player of the week.
In a couple of recent interviews, the always candid Bennett said he chose not to hold out because he is determined to help lead the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl. And he shed some light on the causes, as he sees them, of Seattle’s ridiculous 2-4 start.
To sum it up, Bennett said the team became complacent, greedy, selfish, unfocused — all while getting younger because it has lost some key veterans over the past two years. He said this incarnation of the Seahawks had to learn how to handle losing and needed to regain the trust, chemistry and confidence that had disappeared since the last Super Bowl. He also hinted that XLIX still lingered in the minds of the Seahawks — proof that Pete Carroll did indeed damage his team’s psyche with his stupid call on the goal line at the end of that game.
Regarding his contract displeasure, Bennett told reporters Wednesday, “When I came into the season, I said I’m just going to leave that behind me and just focus on what I can control, and that’s playing at a high level and winning the games and going back to the championship. That’s the only thing I’m focused on.”
He clearly agrees with Earl Thomas’ words that some teammates had been distracted as the club failed to finish winnable games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Carolina.
“I think if you come in thinking about all the other things during the week, those are things that cloud your judgment and cloud your focus,” Bennett said. “I think as a team that was one of the things that we had to get over. We can’t let the Super Bowl cloud our focus right now. We can’t let when Kam was holding out cloud our focus. We can’t let all the little nuances of what happens and details of things that happen during the week cloud our judgment, and I think that’s what we’re learning now.
“As a young team, we have had so much success that after a while success can turn into a drug. You want a little more, then you want a little more. You have to remember that the success comes at the hand of a lot of people. There’s a lot of people that put in a lot of work for us to get where we got. It’s not just one person. I think that you have to learn that and keep focused. I think everybody’s learned that now.”
Those comments came after his radio interview with Jim Rome earlier in the week, when he said the youth of the team had played against it. The Seahawks have lost 16 veterans to free agency, trades, cuts or retirement over the last two years, and Bennett thinks that briefly eroded the winning confidence the team.
“We’ve got a lot of young players on our team,” he said. “We normally have a lot of veterans. But we lost a lot of veterans over the past two years. So we just have to keep everybody in the mindset of winning. And sometimes you lose close games against good teams, and you’ve just got to stay focused.”
He said it helps that players such as himself and Cliff Avril have endured endless losing with other franchises – Avril was on Detroit’s 0-16 team and Bennett played for Tampa Bay — and understand what it took to put together a Super Bowl team in Seattle.
“I think over time we have had so much success that people aren’t used to losing. So, when you start to lose a couple games, people don’t know how to handle it,” he said. “I came from Tampa, so I know about losing. And now that I’ve been here, I know about winning. So I know what the difference is. And to be able to stay focused on winning and keep that passion at all times is one of the most important things. …”
Speaking for the defense, he said it has taken time for the unit to come together – considering Chancellor held out into the third week of the season and Thomas missed the preseason while recovering from shoulder surgery.
“I think it was not having everybody during training camp and finally having some time to get acclimated to everybody here, and it’s starting to really jell together the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I think it’s just one of those things where you just play well together.”
He said people and circumstances change every year, “and you have to relearn how to be a great teammate again. I think you have to do that every year, and we’re learning that. People change. They go through different things. … That’s one of the things as a teammate, a leader that you have to communicate with your teammates and be a great leader when that comes around.”
He said everyone seems to be on the same page now.
“I think what’s happened is a little bit of missed communication when the fire started to turn hot, and that’s one of the things that we can’t do,” he said. “That’s what we did in the past: We didn’t make any miscommunication. We were communicating great, and now I think we’re back at that level where we’re communicating, where we can’t let those things happen and we’re where we’re supposed to be at.”