Veteran New England Patriots defensive lineman Michael Bennett has had a hand in sacking 36 different quarterbacks over the past 10 regular seasons.
As for the names of those quarterbacks? That’s where things get interesting. Each is linked to the three-time Pro Bowler’s career. They’re timestamps, in a sense, that can be traced back to dates, downs and distances.
Robert Griffin III, Troy Smith, Christian Ponder, Mike Glennon, Case Keenum and Marcus Mariota are among them. So are Kirk Cousins, Ryan Lindley, Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh Johnson, Blake Bortles, C.J. Beathard, Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Drew Stanton, Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel.
The same goes for Andy Dalton, Jared Goff, Kellen Clemens, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Chad Henne, Curtis Painter and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even Carson Palmer, Nick Foles, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.
And there’s also the first one Bennett got out of the way at Raymond James Stadium on Nov. 8, 2009.
On first-and-10 with 10:21 remaining the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers, Bennett lined up as the left defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 274-pound Texas A&M product was an undrafted rookie then. He’d been let go by head coach Jim Mora’s Seattle Seahawks and awarded to head coach Raheem Morris’ Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that Sunday, for his third NFL game, he’d be donning the creamsicle orange.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers lined up under center as tight end Donald Lee went in motion to Bennett’s side.
Then the QB turned back to Packers running back Ryan Grant for the play action.
“Off the play fake … Rodgers being pressured … Down he goes,” Sam Rosen said on the Fox Sports broadcast. “The rookie Michael Bennett. Getting a lot of playing time now, he was picked up on waivers from Seattle and it’s the second sack of the game for Tampa Bay.”
It marked the first of a career that’s now – if excluding his 4.5 sacks in postseason play – 63 long and running short on shoulder pads.
But Bennett’s pads didn’t look like those of a kicker a decade ago. That was just as well as No. 71 wrapped up a future two-time NFL MVP for a loss of five yards and swung his leg as high as a kickoff in celebration.
“Here he is, and he flashed a couple of weeks ago in that game against New England,” analyst Tim Ryan offered during the replay. “Look what he does to Donald Lee, just abuses him. Picks him up and throws him about three yards into the backfield, falls back inside and gets a nice sack.”
Then leading by a score of 21-17, Green Bay went on to fall by a score of 38-28 in what was the first career start for another Buccaneers rookie in quarterback Josh Freeman.
As for Bennett, it’d be the last game in which he’d record a defensive statistic that season.
Yet it would be the first of 5.5 sacks that Bennett has recorded versus Rodgers.
And 23 years old is now 33 years old for the former Buccaneer, Seahawk and Philadelphia Eagle, who became a Patriot in a swap of a 2020 fifth-round draft pick and a seventh-rounder this March.
A decade has a way of changing things – aside from the everlasting creamsicles.