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November 23, 2017

11/14/2017 7:30:00 AM
Shoutouts & Callouts
Packers' Bennett experiment failed, but was worth a shot

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor


For all of the Packers fans who clamor for general manager Ted Thompson to make a bigger splash in free agency, let the Martellus Bennett saga be a cautionary tale.

The move was roundly applauded back in March as the mercurial, and insanely talented, Bennett was thought to be an upgrade at the position, and a coup after the team let Jared Cook walk in free agency.

Unfortunately, the move blew up, badly, to the point where the Packers had no choice other than to cut Bennett loose last week.

At issue appears to be who knew what and when regarding a shoulder injury that Bennett claims he's been playing through all season.

According to The Associated Press, Bennett said he chose to have surgery but the Packers team physician, Pat McKenzie, "didn't make me feel safe and was pushing to play." Bennett said he got three other opinions who said that he needed to have the shoulder fixed.

Bennett took to Instagram blasting the Packers for their handling of the situation. They cut Bennett under the "failure to disclose a physical condition" tag, which some NFL insiders have speculated could open the door for the Packers to recoup some of Bennett's signing bonus and lessen the salary cap hit they would have faced.

"I chose my health over my 'team.' They chose money over me," Bennett wrote.

Bennett's claims seem odd. Jordy Nelson and former Packers' fullback John Kuhn came to McKenzie's defense, stating that he never pushed for them to return to play too early. If anything, the Packers have a history of erring on the side of caution with player injuries - Aaron Rodgers' first collarbone injury and Sam Shields' concussion are two examples that immediately come to mind. Rodgers also took to social media over the weekend in support of Dr. McKenzie.

What's more, Bennett was picked up off waivers by New England and, despite the injury, played and caught three passes in the Patriots win over Denver Sunday night.

Bennett clearly was not the impact player the Packers thought he would be after signing him away from the Patriots in the offseason. He had only 24 catches for 233 yards and no touchdowns - to go along with a league-high 11 dropped passes. One of those drops came on the play in Minnesota in which quarterback Rodgers was injured.

Bennett dubbed himself a "quarterback whisperer" during training camp, was jovial and the life of the party in the Packers' locker room early on. But something clearly changed. Whether it was Rodgers' injury - and the prospects of playing on a struggling team - or his own, Bennett's attitude did a complete 180 following an Instagram post during the bye week in which he indicated that he would likely retire following the 2017 season, though he had just inked a three-year deal with the Packers months earlier.

"Life" was the only explanation he would give regarding the post. In fact, that was pretty much the only thing Bennett told reporters following the bye week.

In that sense, perhaps it was time for Bennett to go. For all the ups and downs the Packers have had, one thing the Packers have rarely, if ever, had is a divided locker room.

Still trying to find its bearings with new quarterback Brett Hundley, the last thing the Packers needed in their locker room is a malcontent.

Bennett was clearly heading down that path, and the Packers' rightly nipped the problem in the bud.

Bennett's signing was a bust, just one of the bizarre twists in a Packers' season that has unraveled spectacularly in the wake of Rodgers' injury.

But you can't fault Thompson for trying, especially if you've constantly called him out of the years for being too timid in free agency.

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.





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