Martellus Bennett has been a Packer for less than three weeks, but he’s already making a name for himself in Green Bay.
The outspoken tight end is a polarizing player among NFL fans. Some love his unfiltered approach on Twitter and in interviews, while others think he speaks too much out of turn. He’s publicly ripped former teammates like Jay Cutler, criticized commissioner Roger Goodell, and engaged in a fight with a teammate at practice.
Like it or hate it, Bennett’s personality is just what the Packers need–both on and off the field.
On the playing field, Bennett will provide a big boost at the tight end position. He’s an upgrade over Jared Cook, who last year showed what Green Bay’s offense can do with a dynamic tight end. Bennett thrived under Tom Brady, so transitioning to another elite quarterback should result in similar production.
He had more than 700 yards receiving in 2016 and added a career high seven touchdowns. Bennett will command attention down the middle of the field, which will also help to free up receivers on the outside. His passion and determination are also evident, as Bennett excels at breaking tackles. The new tight end will give the Packers a true weapon down the middle of the field and an excellent red zone target. Cook was effective at the position in 2016; Bennett will be even better.
Few people have gripes about Bennett’s on field production. It’s his off field actions that occasionally get put under a microscope. But guess what? His attitude is something the the Packers and their fans should be embracing.
The team undeniably has leaders, despite those who criticize the leadership styles of players such as Aaron Rodgers. But Bennett can be very vocal in his opinions and in holding teammates accountable. That’s something that can help in the right amounts.
It’s his off-field presence that’s also already making Bennett a fan favorite in Green Bay. Just look at his engagement with fans since he signed his three-year contract. He started out by letting fans decide what jersey number he’ll wear. When the result (#80) was the same as Packer legend Donald Driver, he even checked to make sure Driver approved of it (which Green Bay’s all-time leading receiver did).
He also expressed genuine interest in understanding the team he’s set to play for, asking for fans to give him some history about the team. In between discussions on what constitutes a powder room and what various cereal mascots would say to him, Bennett also refuses to shy away from criticizing some of the NFL’s practices.
He called out the league for implementing educational videos on the proper way to celebrate and for promoting league logos as opposed to the players themselves. Which, to be fair, are views held by a large number of NFL fans. Players should be allowed to celebrate big plays without having to look over their shoulder for flags.
Even if you don’t agree with Bennett’s stance on some of those rules, Green Bay’s new tight end is making it almost impossible to hate him. He tweeted earlier this week that all of the money from his Packers’ jersey sales will go toward after school programs that he’s trying to set up.
Bennett knows where he stands among football fans. He “apologized for being so fantastically awesome” because he “knows he upsets some folks.” Regardless of how you feel about his persona, don’t expect Bennett to change. While his boisterous, outgoing nature may irk some people, his fan engagement and personality (both on and off the field), and performance make him a much-needed breath of fresh air and a valuable piece of the Packers.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .