Michael Bennett retires after 11 NFL seasons

By Bob Condotta | The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The first mention of Michael Bennett in a Seattle Seahawks media guide came on Page 130 in 2009.

Bennett was among 18 players listed in the “additional free agents” section, meaning, mostly, players who had not been drafted that year as rookies.

“A solid performer at either defensive end spot, Bennett has a solid combination of pass-rushing speed and run-stopping strength on the edge,” the Seahawks wrote in their capsule of Bennett, a Texas A&M graduate whose picture and profile was included among the likes of quarterback Jeff Rowe, tight end John Tereshinski and fullback Dan Curran.

Bennett would go on to be all of those things plus so much more during an 11-year NFL career spent largely with the Seahawks — which included being an anchor on the defensive line of the 2013 team that won the only Super Bowl title in Seattle’s history.

His career came to an official end Tuesday morning when he announced his retirement.

Bennett broke the news of his retirement in an Instagram post, writing that it “feels a little like death of self, but I’m looking forward to the rebirth — the opportunity to reimagine my purpose.”

He wrote a book a few years ago called “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable,” having been among the more vocal Seahawks about the need for social change (which, according to The New Yorker, he plans to make into a scripted TV series). He began sitting in protest during the national anthem in 2017.

While Bennett made the Seahawks in 2009 as one of the surprise players in training camp, he was waived in October when Seattle needed to bring Kyle Williams back to the offensive line (Seattle had 11 defensive linemen on the roster at the time).

Bennett was quickly snatched up by Tampa Bay, where his career took off, becoming a starter in 2011 and making nine sacks in 2012.

In what is regarded as one of the best free-agent signings in team history, Bennett returned to Seattle on a one-year deal worth $5 million in 2013, signed along with Cliff Avril and Tony McDaniel to add juice to a defensive line that was seen as one of the main areas of needed improvement following the stirring end to the 2012 season, Russell Wilson’s rookie year.

Bennett became a mainstay of Seattle’s defensive line for the next five years (signing two more contracts along the way) making 39 sacks, seventh in team history, and numerous more big plays during a time when the Seahawks assembled what will go down as one of the best defenses in team history.

Along the way, he developed a knack for the fun quote, such as saying his famous sack dance was “like two angels dancing while chocolate is coming from the heavens on a Sunday morning.”

He also had a knack for stealing the show: Amid the celebration of one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history, when Seattle rallied from 16 points down to beat Green Bay and win the NFC title, he grabbed a Seattle Police officer’s bike and rode around CenturyLink Field, creating a defining image for one of the greatest days in the town’s sports history.

Bennett, though, also grew upset about his contract as the years went on, staying away from much of the team’s offseason programs in 2015 and 2016 before signing a new three-year deal at the end of the 2016 season.

He said on the day the contract became official he hoped it would allow him to retire as a Seahawk.

Instead, he played just one more season in Seattle, the rocky 2017 campaign when the Seahawks went just 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the only time during Wilson’s tenure as quarterback.

Avril and Kam Chancellor suffered career-ending injuries along the way, which opened the door for the Seahawks to decide to further change things up, trading Bennett to Philadelphia for a fifth-round pick (which became punter Michael Dickson) and receiver Marcus Johnson around the same time they also released Richard Sherman.

In the wake of the trade, Bennett told Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated that he had taken to reading books in team meetings during his final days with the Seahawks because “he’d already heard whatever Pete Carroll was saying,” a comment that seemed to indicate that maybe both sides needed a change of scenery.

But a couple of months later, when he returned to Seattle for a town-hall meeting in support of his book, Bennett said he wasn’t bitter, calling being traded “part of the business” and saying he had since talked to Carroll and had “a real conversation.”

Of reading books during meetings? Bennett responded that night with a smile: “I said Coach Carroll is a good person. I didn’t say he is a good comedian.”

And as for Seattle, Bennett said it would always feel like home.

“I walk through the city of Seattle,” Bennett said, “And I get love wherever I go.”

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