Edgar Bennett has a notebook in front of him brimming with the scouting reports he’s been working on for weeks, a remote nearby well-worn by his palm from watching film at his desk and a pen twirling endlessly in his fingers throughout an entire conversation. He has carved out 15 minutes to talk about a job change, how fundamentals transcend position groups and making the most of an opportunity.
Since the Packers took home the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 6, it has been a hectic 10 weeks or so. Bennett was briefly able to enjoy the afterglow of his second Super Bowl triumph in Green Bay. For those who watched him as one of the emotional leaders of the Packers’ glory teams in the mid-1990s, that flame still burns bright, yet, Bennett is a different man from those days as well: unassuming, serious about his craft and reflective.
He has a new job title in 2011, coaching the wide receivers after tutoring the running backs since 2005. It’s a position that Head Coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin suggested to Bennett after having so much success in the backfield, continuing the assistant’s evolution as an NFL coach and bringing a new perspective to the wide receivers unit.
“They brought me in, asked me my thoughts and wanted to know what I thought I could bring to the table,” Bennett said. “They have a lot of faith in me and I’m thankful for that. I’m going to make the most of this opportunity but, really, it’s always been about actions rather than what I say. That’s always been my approach when showing what something means to me.”
Bennett won’t be caught unprepared for the new challenge. He’s familiar with the group he’s inheriting, as Bennett has spent the last five years working with many of the same players in offensive meetings and utilizing their talents with the coaching staff creating weekly game plans. Obviously, it’s a talented deck with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones.
So when he walks into that first meeting with a veteran wide receiver corps sitting in front of him, what will be Bennett’s message?
“I know when I get there that it is a room of outstanding men with character,” Bennett said. “I’m going to share what my values and core beliefs are, and that will be the starting point. Football is about fundamental principles, and those don’t change with positions. Work ethic doesn’t change. Ball security doesn’t change. Our standards won’t change.”
How Bennett measures draft prospects at the position he coaches has changed dramatically. He just completed his 16th season in Green Bay in 2010 and 18th in the NFL, so Bennett knows talent on both sides of the ball. Bennett has been meticulous in breaking down the college prospects at wide receiver.
“Our formula at the position and what we look for is understood by everyone,” he said. “You want the right person, the right measurables and high character. Sometimes you give your opinions on a player that might need help with something on the field but with coaching will improve. I ask questions, sit and watch tape with Mike and Joe. Like anything, we all go through a process of growing and developing.”
Which brings Bennett to the part of coaching that he finds most rewarding: working with players and developing their skills. He often draws upon his playing career, when he rushed for 3,353 yards from 1992-96 for the Packers. Bennett was also a pretty fair receiver with 242 catches in Green Bay.
“The teaching part of it is what I like best, having a chance to be in a role where you can mentor people,” he said. “I never lose sight that every person and every situation is different. It’s also still a chance for me to compete at the highest level.
“Coaching can be as rewarding as playing, but obviously not on the physical level. Nothing compared to playing in the Super Bowl, but coaching was the closest thing. Coaching demands longer hours. I found that out quickly.”
Ricky Zeller is a contributing writer for packers.com. He has covered the NFL for several publications.