Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rejected by Bucs, Bennett finds Super landing spot in Seattle

JERSEY CITY, N.J.

Even now, even here at the top of the world, he can close his eyes and go back. Even after all this time, even after moving a continent away, he can recapture the feeling of owning tomorrow.

It was Oct. 3, 2011, and Michael Bennett played for a different team in a different place and a different time. Back then, he was a Buc, and to be honest, it felt as if it would last forever.

Tampa Bay played the Indianapolis Colts that Monday night, and the energy surged through the defensive line and, for once, all things seemed possible. The Bucs won that night, 24-17, and Bennett had two sacks, and the young defensive line was outstanding, and all things seemed possible.

That, of course, was before the Bucs threw Bennett away.

That, too, was before the Seattle Seahawks came along and claimed themselves a star.

"Everything worked out for the best, didn't it?" Bennett said, grinning widely.

He is Seattle's now, a favorite piece of a fierce defense on a fabulous team. These days, it is another crowd that feeds off of Bennett's passion. These days, it is another team that benefits from the defensive end's sudden burst toward the opposing quarterback. These days, it is another city that finds life in Bennett's gyrating sack dance, one he describes as "two angels dancing while chocolate is coming from the heavens on a nice Sunday morning."

How good has Bennett been?

Consider the way Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman puts it.

"Michael Bennett might have been our most valuable player," Sherman said. "When you consider the number of snaps he had and the number of plays he made, he might have been the best player on our defense."

And the Bucs, with their sad pass rush, couldn't have used any of that?

Really?

It is funny how life works out sometimes. This time a year ago, Bennett was waiting for a call from the Bucs that never came. He had led the team in sacks, after all. He was only 27 years old.

And the Bucs?

Well, they liked Da'Quan Bowers.

All together now: Oops.

Instead, Bennett signed a one-year contract with the Seahawks, where he became a pass-rush specialist.

He had 8½ sacks, and he forced four fumbles, and he recovered three, and he returned one for a touchdown.

"Mike is a phenomenal player," said fellow lineman Red Bryant. "He's one of the best DE-slash-DTs in the NFL. He plays like it's supposed to be played. On any given Sunday, he can take over a game. Not many players can do that."

Still, it was only a few months ago that Bennett twisted in the wind. He said he was never able to find out why the Bucs didn't want him.

"It was frustrating," he said. "I was there from the beginning. You put so much into it, and you play through injuries. When it doesn't work out the way you want it to work out, you do feel a certain kind of hurt.

"I thought we had a young defensive line. I thought we were getting closer to winning."

So, who got the last laugh? In this case, the last sack?

"I don't want to be that guy," Bennett said. "I wanted to see the Bucs win. Gerald McCoy is my best friend. We talk four times a week. I was pulling for A.C. (Adrian Clayborn) in his comeback."

Ah, but what about coach Greg Schiano?

Maybe you heard. A report this season included quotes from Bennett about how bad it was to play for Schiano. "Like playing in Cuba," Bennett supposedly said.

"I didn't say that," Bennett yelped Wednesday morning. "I didn't. Someone else said that.

"I wanted Coach to be successful. I didn't think he got enough time as it was. He's a hard guy, but if you talk to him one on one, he's a lot better guy than people think."

Still, when you consider what Bennett left, and where he wound up, it's hard to feel badly for him. Think of it as being thrown off a dump truck and landing in a diamond mine.

Now, Bennett faces the end of another contract. He wants to stay in Seattle, of course. But who knows what the future holds?

"Either way, this will always be a special year for me," he said. "I got my biggest chance, and I played with great players."

Sometimes, that pays off in ways you wouldn't expect.

Last month, for instance, Bennett was in a hurry, and he wanted lunch, and he had a restaurant named Cactus in mind.

He called ahead, but he was told no reservations were available. Sorry.

So Bennett hung up, and he called back. This time, he told them the reservation was for "Russell Wilson."

When Bennett showed up, a table was roped off and waiting.

Surprise. He wasn't the Seahawks quarterback, after all.

Bennett laughs when he tells the story. No, he won't try the same thing in New York.

"Here, you'd have to say you're Barack Obama," he said.

In the meantime, Bennett does have some plans for Sunday. That's when he'll try to get past a good Denver offensive line and get to quarterback Peyton Manning. How successful he is may say a lot about how effective the Seattle defense will be.

If he's successful, there may be a spot for him at the table, after all.

Comments
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Published: 04/22/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely able to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother, S...
Published: 04/21/18
Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

TAMPA —Wait 'til this year seems to be the refrain at One Buc Place, even though the team was strangled by expectations in 2017. But a solid offseason that has already brought a rebuilt defensive line, new center and place-kicker has renewed th...
Published: 04/21/18
NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

TAMPA — The NFL draft is one big game of Liar's Poker. Deal me out.Even the guys with a seat at the table don't know when someone is bluffing.Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows that the team's No. 7 overall pick this year will be affected b...
Published: 04/20/18
Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

We've seen Jameis Winston and Mike Evans bonding this offseason, going to Texas A&M pro day together, among other events. The two Bucs stars and their significant others double-dated Thursday night, getting courtside seats to watch the Miami Heat in ...
Published: 04/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

The NFL did the Bucs no favors with their 2018 schedule, Rick Stroud says, making them open at New Orleans, followed by home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Plus, linebacker Kendall Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle, p...
Published: 04/20/18
Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions. The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in question.Beckwith was passenger in car driven by former L...
Published: 04/19/18
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Published: 04/19/18