GREEN BAY – Martellus Bennett has the reputation of a free spirit, but carefree he is not.
Not according to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“He cares about dominating. He brings that grit and that attitude to the field where he wants to dominate the guy over him, whether he’s blocking or catching passes,” Rodgers said. “I think he’s going to bring some extreme confidence to the locker room, which we need.”
The 6-6, 275-pound, 10-year veteran and Super Bowl champion was on public display for the first time Tuesday for the Packers’ second OTA practice.
He came as advertised – big and athletic, with a personality all his own.
While discussing with reporters his ongoing transition to Green Bay’s offense, learning the “nuances” and little things that come with Rodgers’ game, Bennett also gave a glimpse into his leadership style.
It’s built on the confidence Rodgers was referring to but with the free spirit that keeps himself, and everyone around him, loose and relaxed. Here’s a sampling.
On his leadership style: “I may not be a team captain, but I’m the captain of fun.”
On interacting with others: “You want to water other people’s gardens. You don’t just want to be tending to your own garden all the time.”
On his favorite topics of conversation: “I know a little bit about a lot, but I don’t know a lot about anything.”
On books he enjoys: “I don’t like real stuff. I like to live in fantastical adventures.”
Bennett would like to take the Packers’ offense to a “fantastical” level, and the possibilities are intriguing with him and another free-agent addition at tight end, Lance Kendricks.
The regular season will tell the real tale, but count Rodgers and veteran receiver Jordy Nelson among the curious as to just how a double-tight-end set with these two will operate.
Both effective run-blockers as well as downfield pass-catchers, Bennett and Kendricks will give defenses a lot to think about. Rodgers called their dual presence a “tendency breaker,” because the Packers won’t have to lean heavily run or pass with both on the field.
“It gives you the upper hand,” Rodgers said. “There’s a number of ways you can attack a defense based on their alignment. You can run both sides behind those guys, and you can get four vertical (routes) as well.”
If Bennett and Kendricks can find success downfield – and both have averaged better than 10 yards per catch over their careers – defenses might treat them as receivers with expanded defensive back combinations.
“Or it might prevent them from going to a sub-package,” Nelson said, which can leave other receivers like him one-on-one. “If they think it’s a run down or run formation, they might have to leave all their linebackers in, because obviously it’ll be very hard to guard Martellus with a little nickel. Playing a nickel corner over the tight ends will be hard for them.”
Either way, it’s wait and see as the two new additions use the next four weeks of OTAs and minicamp to translate the playbook onto the field in live action.
“I think we’re very versatile in our own ways,” Kendricks said. “He can get down the field, and I feel like I’m a little more shifty with the shorter routes. I think we can definitely make it work, and we’ll mesh good together.”
That’s the idea, even with two players coming to Green Bay from two different places in their careers.
Kendricks is a Milwaukee native and former Wisconsin Badger who had a chance to come home after six seasons with the Rams.
Like Jared Cook a year ago, Kendricks has yet to play in an NFL postseason game, and now he’s playing for his home-state team whose eight-year playoff streak began two years before he was drafted. He’s focused on the circumstances not being “a distraction, but more motivation.”
Meanwhile, Bennett is now with his fifth team and coming off the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI title, a triumph that revealed to him the reason behind all the blood, sweat, and tears required to succeed in this game.
“You have that taste, and it’s like, ‘This is why I do this,’” he said. “It took me 10 years to get there, but this is why I’ve been practicing. This is all those sprints, those extra runs, those extra reps. This is why you do it … because before then it’s just a myth.”
All the offseason talk about the Packers’ offense is just a myth for now, too. Making it a reality is the goal.
“I think they bring a lot,” Nelson said. “Obviously they’re still trying to catch up on all the little things we do. It’s different than seeing the playbook and what’s written on paper.
“We like what we see.”