Packers: Veteran tight end Martellus Bennett making a point to get know new teammates
GREEN BAY — For Martellus Bennett, assimilating into a new team isn’t as easy as he might make it look. It requires effort, a little creativity, and — with the Green Bay Packers, anyway — literally some sweat equity.
But for the Packers’ new tight end — one of five veteran free agents the team added — along with fellow tight end Lance Kendricks, right guard Jahri Evans, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois and cornerback Davon House — the sacrifice and concerted effort to get to know his new teammates is important and worthwhile.
“It varies with every team,” Bennett said Tuesday, following the first open-to-the-public organized team activity practice of the spring, which gave fans and reporters their first look at the veteran newcomers. Bennett is now on his fifth NFL team, having played for the Dallas Cowboys (2008-11), New York Giants (2012) and Chicago Bears (2013-15) before winning the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots last season.
“Like last year with the Patriots, during training camp, I didn’t drive to anywhere. I just stood outside and hitchhiked with a different guy every day and just rolled with him for that 15 minutes over to the stadium.”
With the Packers, Bennett’s connection plan is two-pronged. For team breakfasts and lunches, he picks a different table for each meal every day in order to spend time with a different person. And then after practice, he’s taking one for the team in order to “warm up” to his new teammates.
“We’ve got some guys that get in the sauna (after practice). I’m not a huge sauna guy, but I get in there and we freestyle and we rap and we have great conversations in there,” Bennett explained. “So it’s just figuring out each guy and trying to infuse myself into those situations with them whether it’s talking books with some guys or talking girls with other guys, giving advice on women, whatever it may be. There’s enough (to talk about).
“I’ve been fortunate. I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I know a little bit about a lot. I don’t know a lot about anything so I do pretty well around. … I think when people see me, the first thing they do is smile because they don’t know what the hell I’m going to say next.”
That incorporation process is a two-way deal, though, and it’s also a matter of making connections both in the locker room — or in the sauna or cafeteria, as it were — and on the field.
“I think the goal at this point, when you’re adding new guys to the mix, it’s about chemistry. And that’s the on-the-field chemistry,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “It’s reading body language when they’re running routes, it’s getting on the same page with the verbiage when you’ve got new players, and then it’s starting to figure out how guys like to run routes, where they like the ball in certain situations, how they use their body. It’s about timing and getting that chemistry with the new skill players.”
To appreciate just how long it’s been since the Packers have had this many new veterans to absorb into their program, consider this: Now 12th-year coach Mike McCarthy was in his first year on the job, and when his Packers got off to a 1-3 start, he was starting to feel like he might be in over his head.
“Marvin Lewis called me, and he was kidding me,” McCarthy said last week, referring to the Cincinnati Bengals coach and McCarthy’s former colleague at the University of Pittsburgh. “He said, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m hiding under the desk. This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be.’”
Top draft pick and cornerback Kevin King is not participating in OTAs because the University of Washington is on the quarters system, and NFL rules prohibit draft picks from taking part in practices until their schools are out of session. Like last year’s first-round pick — UCLA’s Kenny Clark — King is expected to be back for June 13-15 minicamp. … Starting center Corey Linsley confirmed he had offseason ankle surgery, and while he wouldn’t say whether he’ll be cleared to practice before training camp, he said his recovery is on schedule. … With Linsley sidelined, Don Barclay was the No. 1 center. The Packers’ offensive line was David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Barclay, Evans and Bryan Bulaga left-to-right. … Punter Jake Schum (back), cornerback Demetri Goodson (knee) and linebacker Vince Biegel (foot) also were not practicing, while linebacker Clay Matthews was absent because of a personal matter. … Cornerback Damarious Randall had a fantastic leaping interception at the goal line on an underthrown fade from Brett Huntley to Geronimo Allison toward the end of 11-on-11 work.