Michael Bennett has been feistier this summer than in any other, and it has made plenty of people think he is taking out his frustrations about his contract.
But it’s probably a little more sensible than that: It’s probably about him trying to make sure he gets the extension that should be coming his way next offseason — something he can’t do if he gets hurt before the season even begins.
Speaking a day after he once again was involved in a fight — this time with Bradley Sowell — Bennett said the new players have to “find that line” while competing and learn to respect teammates and not hurt them.
“It’s a new group of guys; it’s a whole new offensive line,” he said of a unit that has replaced Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy and Alvin Bailey with Sowell, Germain Ifedi, Mark Glowinski and others.
“Before, it was guys you have played with for a long time — almost three or four years you hang with these guys.”
Bennett said he talked to Sowell — who signed from Arizona — about how to practice.
“I would never do anything like that to him,” Bennett said, “so I think after I approached him and let him know my mindset to how I play the game, how I approach the game, he understands why he shouldn’t do that kind of stuff.
“I think definitely there’s a fine line in the NFL where a guy beats a guy … but then when it goes beyond the play, dirty kind of plays at practice, I think that’s where it crosses the line.”
Then he made the closest reference to his contract that he would make.
“I don’t really treat the game like a game,” he said. “I treat it like a job in the sense of feeding my family. So, if I feel like somebody’s doing something to injure, I feel like he’s taking food out of my daughter’s mouth or my wife’s. So I take that to heart.
“That drives me insane, especially if we’re on the same team. It’s different if we’re on a different team; but, if we’re on the same team, I feel like we should respect each other where we aren’t trying to hurt each other. I think everybody’s a valuable part of the team and everybody should be treated valuably on the team at the end of the day.”
Bennett said the players control what happens to each other. “I think there’s a code where we have to find that line and — when it becomes more about the other person’s safety than it is about the game — I think that’s where it goes to about the person’s family. I think that’s the fine line in the NFL, where you have to draw the line where we aren’t trying to injure each other but we are trying to win the games. At the end of the day, you always have to find that line.”
Bennett wants to find that dotted line after this season, and that’s why he is getting so frustrated with some of the overzealous new guys.