New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett joined up with his brother and Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett for an ESPN profile by the excellent Mina Kimes. Kimes followed the brothers to understand their view of both the NFL landscape and the world, as enhanced by their delightful dynamic.
At one point, the brothers are asked their thoughts on Martellus’ former quarterback Jay Cutler.
"Worst quarterback in the NFL," Michael answers.
"I'd be open and he'd throw into double coverage," Martellus says.
This is just one example of the brutal honesty on display in the longform, as the two discuss everything from being a parent, to advice for young football players entering the league, to being a black man in America, to quick opinions on players and personnel around the league- including Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"The silver fox you never get to see but you hear about,” Martellus says about Brady. “You only get to take one photo, and you have to stay outside for a year just to get it."
Kimes sat with the broths during lunch and Martellus asks Michael, "Do guys ever come up to you and say, 'Man, you said that? I wish I could say that ...'"
"All the time," he answers.
"They think it's weird that we're ourselves," Martellus responds. "I think it's weird that you're trying to be something you're not."
I think the profile is an excellent look into Martellus as an individual and as a way to see how head coach Bill Belichick will maximize his ability and focus. It’s been clear since the Patriots acquired him that the tight end loves being a personality. He wants to win, but he wants to be able to express himself without limits. He writes books, he directs movies, he volunteers, and he doesn’t limit his potential.
"If I wake up at 6 a.m. to work out, I'm done at 10 a.m.,” Martellus says. “Most guys play video games all day." Bennett wants to do more than just be a football player.
"I feel like I'm the [rapper Kanye West] of the NFL," Martellus adds.
“I'm not limiting myself to be one type of individual, I'm open and expanding my own box and building my own place in the world,” Martellus said at practice on Wednesday to explain his Kanye statement. “That's basically what I meant. Whether it's dabbling in music, movies, wanting to build furniture, there's so much I want to do. I want to build theme parks, I want to build hotels, and I want to win Super Bowls.”
Martellus is working with an animation company called “Stoopid Buddy Stoodios” to develop a stop-motion television show about a young boy “who plays football with otherworldly creatures.” The lead character “looks like a tiny version of [himself],” Kimes notes.
"If I don't make black characters, who will?" Martellus challenges. "In Frozen, there's not one black character in Arendelle. I don't even know where Arendelle is, but there's gotta be a black person somewhere. One of us made it over there, goddamn it."
Martellus is so passionate about his off-the-field projects because he values his “sense of self.” He thinks players are “lost when the sport leaves them behind,” and so he wants to be prepared for the day he can no longer play football.
"When we're done, we can't get jobs,” Martellus notes. “We don't know s---. We don't have interests, we don't have passions. Football is the only thing we've done our entire lives."
I’m extremely intrigued to see how Martellus’ outlook on life will rub off on his teammates. Wide receiver Julian Edelman loves discussing hamburgers and making fun videos with teammate Danny Amendola. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has a show on Nickelodeon called Crashletes. It’s hard to think of other things that players do off the field. I think in years past, we might have viewed this sort of mentality as a distraction.
For Martellus, it’s a part of his playing style. He needs to have his freedom of expression off the field if he’s going to be a happy teammate and contribute on the field. He points to his time in New York City with the Giants as one of the times he’s truly flourished.
"New York changed my life," he says. "When I got there, they gave me a list of art museums. They gave me a list of places I should see, places I should eat. ... I found a balance of life outside of football."
"I've been in the league for nine years now,” he adds, “and I've only been on two teams where the guys were a team: the New York Giants and now with the Patriots."
If the Patriots can give him a list of things to do in Boston- and I think a 12-month pass to the Museum of Science and a field trip to Old Sturbridge Village would be a great place to start- then Martellus could be in line for a career year.