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Michael Bennett back where it all started
You’ll have to excuse Michael Bennett if he doesn’t feel like a free-agent addition.
As the versatile defensive lineman who signed with the Seahawks last month views his unique situation, he has returned to his first NFL home and a team he really never wanted to leave.
“It’s nice to be back. I Iove this place and I would love to be a Seahawk for the rest of my life. It’s a beautiful city and my wife likes it here,” Bennett said Tuesday, after participating in an offseason workout session at Virginia Mason Athletic Center with former – and familiar – teammates like defensive end Red Bryant and nose tackle Brandon Mebane.
Both players were here during Bennett’s first – albeit short – stint with the Seahawks in 2009. So was Dan Quinn, then the defensive line coach and now in his first year as the coordinator.
“There’s a lot of comfort level here, especially with Dan Quinn also coming back,” said Bennett, who was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from midway through the 2009 season through last season.
The 6-foot-4, 287-pound Bennett originally was signed by the Seahawks after the 2009 NFL Draft, joining a team that already had Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney, ends Darryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson, tackles Craig Terrill, Mebane and Bryant; and that year added end Cory Redding in a trade, nose tackle Colin Cole in free agency, end Nick Reed in the draft and end Derek Walker in July after the Washington Redskins released him.
Add Bennett to the mix and it made for at least one too many D-linemen. At least that’s what Bennett thought as the team moved closer to the roster cut to 53 players. He was expecting to be released, but the Seahawks kept all 11.
“We carried all of them, just because we were not going to let Mike get away because we knew he was there and what he had,” Quinn said.
But when injuries on the offensive line forced the signing of tackle Kyle Williams off the practice squad in October, Bennett was waived to clear a roster spot and claimed by the Buccaneers.
“They made overtures, expressing that they wished they didn’t have to let me go. I was like, ‘Me too,’ ” Bennett recalled. “I’m just happy to be here and get my chance.”
Now that he’s back, Quinn has even bigger plans for Bennett. He will play end in the base defense, but also slide inside to the three-technique tackle spot in the nickel defense – a spot that was filled last season by Jason Jones, who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency last month.
“It’s great for a guy to have that kind of position flexibility,” Quinn said. “It’s not only a value to him but our team, too.”
How is that Bennett turned out to be a two-fer signing?
“It’s harder, because you have to have enough size that you can play D-tackle and then you have to have enough quickness that you can win outside where some of the big guys can’t,” Quinn said. “He’s truly a person that has the ability to do both.”
But Bennett explained that moving from end to tackle and back depending on down, distance and offensive personnel is not as complicated as it sounds.
“It’s not as difficult as it seems,” he said. “Inside is a lot easier than outside, actually, because everything is quicker and outside it takes a little longer to develop. Explosion is what really helps you on the inside. The more explosion you have on the inside, you get into your man faster and they don’t have time to recover.”
The move from Seattle to Tampa at midseason in 2009 also proved beneficial for Bennett because it gave him the opportunity to play and grow as a player. He had 15 tackles and a sack while filling a situational role in 2010. As his snaps increased in 2011, his numbers grew to 39 tackles and four sacks. Last season, he had career-highs in tackles (41), sacks (nine) and forced fumbles (three).
“I developed as a player, and got my opportunities,” he said. “And I seized those opportunities as I got them. That’s all I can do about it, just every time I get a chance go out there and make a play and stand out.”
Offered Quinn, who spent the past two seasons as the D-coordinator at the University of Florida: “Just like when most guys get their op, some seize it and Mike totally did. That was one of the really cool things following him; he took his shot, went for it and did well. And I’m not surprised, because he had all the traits to be really good.”
As good as he was in Tampa, this former Buc doesn’t plan to stop here.
“It worked out. I got a chance to develop and become a good player,” Bennett said of his time in Tampa. “I’m only going to get better here with Dan Quinn’s help. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, is the teaching part. It’s one of the main reasons I came here – the teaching of Dan Quinn and being able to become a better player.”