In case you couldn’t hear his return from whatever deep cave you were trapped in, Michael Bennett is back.
“No, I didn’t vote for Trump,” the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end said to start his first news conference in a month.
The team doesn’t allow its injured players to talk to the media while they are not practicing or not playing.
But on Wednesday, Bennett was back at practice and at full go, a strong indicator he will play for the first time in six games on Sunday night when the Seahawks (7-3-1) host Carolina (4-7) at CenturyLink Field.
His return could be timely for Seattle. The Panthers are using a third-string center after the top two went on injured reserve. They have only one lineman playing in the same spot where he started this season.
Bennett had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee a couple of weeks after Atlanta’s Jake Matthews cut-blocked him — legally, shoulder- and helmet-first — on Oct. 16 during the Seahawks’ win over the host Falcons.
Asked how he feels, Bennett said: “I’m black in America. I feel OK.
“It feels decent.”
Coach Pete Carroll has said the team is counting on Bennett to play against the Panthers.
“Yes,” Carroll reiterated Wednesday. “Again, he’s got to go through practice and see if he can make it through the week and all that.”
By the way, Bennett doesn’t have anything good to say about Matthews.
Bennett played on 81 of the 95 snaps Seattle’s defense had in the marathon overtime tie at Arizona, which came the week after he got hurt in the Atlanta game. He hasn’t played since.
“I grew up in Texas,” Bennett said. “I’ve played football on concrete and all kind of stuff like that. You have to learn how to play with pain in the NFL. It’s just something you learn how to do. Either you can do it or you can’t do it. In that game we just did it.
“It was a tough game, but I just played through it and ended up having to get it fixed.”
Bennett called Matthews’ block “a (expletive) play” multiple times following the Falcons game.
“I like the Matthews family,” Bennett said Wednesday of his fellow former Texas A&M Aggie. “But me and Jake don’t get along right now. So, hopefully, I see him again soon.”
Frank Clark has gotten most of Bennett’s every-down snaps at end. Cliff Avril, 10 sacks this season, had 3 ½ in the five games that Bennett’s missed, but has gotten more attention from opposing blocking schemes.
“It’s going to be great that he’s back,” Avril said.
“Hopefully, they will pay him a little more mind and leave me one on one.”
Avril is glad he won’t have to talk as much. Bennett is an All-Pro in talking.
Avril said Bennett is such a chatterbox that Bennett called Avril minutes after emerging from his knee surgery. And — get this — Avril said his buddy talks even more while under the effects of anesthesia.
“I had to be a little more vocal (on the field) with him gone,” Avril said, chuckling.
While Avril was talking more during games, Bennett was home living real life as a husband and father of three daughters.
“Getting to take the kids to school. Clean up the kitchen,” he said.
“It sucks not being able to play, watching everyone on TV. You just get a realization and a reality check ... what’s important and what’s not important.”
Bennett missed plenty while he was out: a loss at New Orleans, wins over Buffalo, New England (against his brother, Patriots tight end Martellus) and Philadelphia, plus last weekend’s defeat at his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Asked what he did during those games, Bennett said: “Recorded it. Sometimes I watched it, and watched it later.
“Sometimes I painted my daughter’s nails. ... You have to do daddy stuff when you are home.”
On Tuesday, Bennett’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, tweeted: “great seeing clients @mosesbread72 and (Tacoma’s) @DesmondTrufant today working on a deal and working on a surgery. @ISEWorldwide TAG AND DRAG”
A report by the league-owned NFL Network on Oct. 30 said the Seahawks were working on an extension of Bennett’s four-year, $28.5 million contract, which has another year remaining on it after this one. He’s complained for two years to anyone with ears about being undervalued by that deal. Considered perhaps the NFL’s best defensive linemen, Bennett was the league’s 27th-highest- paid end entering this season.
Asked about the report and his agent’s tweet, Bennett said: “Propaganda.”
He used the same word to describe his reaction to the result of this month’s presidential election:
Cable dismayed by O-line’s showing
Coach Tom Cable didn’t speak softly when describing how he felt his Seahawks offensive line played at Tampa Bay — and why Garry Gilliam is no longer the starting right tackle.
“No, not good enough,” the veteran line coach said, three days after his guys allowed Tampa Bay to loop and stunt and sack quarterback Russell Wilson six times in the Buccaneers’ 14-5 win.
Cable shook his shaved head for emphasis — not that he needed to. His tone said as much or more than his words.
“We kind of had a motto here: ‘Don’t make things up,’ ” Cable said. “Do right. Stay right. Continue, down after down. And we really kind of got away from that.
“Kind of looked like young guys, to be quite honest with you.”
Seattle started three rookies on the line last weekend. First-round draft choice Germain Ifedi was at right guard for the eighth consecutive time since he returned from a sprained ankle in September. Undrafted college basketball player George Fant was at left tackle for the fifth straight time. Center Joey Hunt made his first NFL start because Justin Britt, the team’s best, most consistent lineman this season, was out with a sprained ankle.
Those three rookies joined second-year left guard Mark Glowinski and Gilliam (for the first three plays) and Bradley Sowell (for the final 60 plays) at right tackle.
“I see it as a bad night at the ballgame,” Cable said of going from two sacks allowed per game through 10 weeks to allowing six in Tampa.
“It’s disappointing, because you are kind of on this trajectory to get right and get consistent, and then you have that happen. We all take it very personal, and we have to get right. ... And the group coming in here this weekend is a fine defense, so you really have no choice but to get yourself straight.”
On Wednesday, Carroll said Sowell is now the starting right tackle. Gilliam’s benching is the first one for straight performance — and not injury related or prompted — on the line this season.
“It was just about competing,” Cable said. “That’s the way it kind of worked out. And Brad was really hooked up and doing fine.”
Asked what he can do to coach physicality into Gilliam, Cable said: “To play on the line of scrimmage at this level it has to be part of your makeup.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle