The Pacific Northwest, we know Michael Bennett.
We’ve come to expect the extraordinary — if not bizarre — on and off the field from the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end.
This week, Michigan is getting to know him better. And if Bennett has his way Saturday night in the NFC wild card game at CenturyLink Field, quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions will know him far better than they want to.
Each game week during the season, NFL media members request a player from the opposing team to interview on a conference call. This week, Detroit’s media chose Bennett.
“Golden Tate is just one of those players, he can do so much,” Bennett told them of the Lions’ leading receiver who was Bennett’s teammate with the Seahawks in 2013, before Tate signed a free-agent contract with Detroit. “He can catch the ball, run the ball. His YAC (yards after catch) is just outstanding.
“And sometimes, he got the weirdest-looking body but he can always make plays. I always think he looks like a bird.
“But I can never understand how that body does what it does.”
That “bird” gained infamy among Seahawks teammates in June 2010 for trespassing into a Top Pot doughnuts shop in Bellevue at 3 a.m. Tate and a friend swiped some fresh-baked maple bars from the shop, which was below an apartment complex in which Tate was living at the time. Police let off Tate with a warning. While apologizing for the negative press his incident brought upon the Seahawks, the wide receiver said following a minicamp practice that spring “they are irresistible.”
“Golden was always a great teammate,” Bennett told the Detroit media Tuesday, his tongue firmly in his cheek. “Great, fun guy. Always popped around. Always brought doughnuts.”
Asked where Tate got the doughnuts, Bennett said: “Top Pot.”
The joke likely flew way over the head of the Michigan folks like a long Stafford pass.
Bennett wasn’t done. A Lions media member asked him about Detroit running back Zach Zenner. The 2015 undrafted free agent from South Dakota State led the Lions with 69 yards rushing last weekend in the loss to Green Bay that sent Detroit to Seattle for the first round. Zenner has become Detroit’s main back with Theo Reddick, the team’s leading rusher in the regular season, injured and out for the year.
“I think the running back, man, he’s … there’s not many white running backs in the NFL, but he has to be the best right now,” Bennett said.
“He’s doing such a great job of cutbacks and hitting the hole. He’s a really good back. I know all the stuff he did in college, three straight seasons of 2,000 yards. I don’t care where you’re at, if you can do that you have got amazing talent.
“That surprises me a lot because you don’t see a lot of (white) running backs in the NFL, there’s just a couple. But he’s right now, he’s really, really good. He does a lot of great things, I think. Even in the pass protection game, he steps up and he does a great job of protection. I’m not surprised that he’s the starter right now because of all the great things that he’s doing.”
Last season after the Seahawks beat the Lions, 13-10, in a Monday night game at CenturyLink Field, Bennett said he didn’t like Stafford because the Lions quarterback was from Dallas.
“They killed the president,” Bennett, a native Texan, said in October 2015 of Dallas and John F. Kennedy. “I hold it against him.”
Asked on Tuesday if he still holds it against Stafford that JFK was killed in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, Bennett said “Yeah.”
Bennett even turned a question about the advantage the Seahawks have playing Saturday’s game at home, where they haven’t lost in the postseason in 13 years, into a joke.
“The stadium is amazing. I think we have so many great fans that do a lot of good things for us,” he said. “I think being at home is always good.
“Traveling in the NFL sucks because a lot of times you stay in cheap hotels, which I don’t understand because the NFL makes so much money and the accommodations are terrible. But it’s one of those things were traveling is always bad and being able to be at home, you’re familiar with the stadium, you’re familiar with the bed that you sleep in, familiar with the food. You’re familiar with the setting, and I think it makes it a lot easier sometimes when you’re playing in those type of games.
“We’re staying in three-star Marriotts. We don’t even get room service.”
Bennett apparently still had the Seahawks’ trip to Wisconsin for last month’s game at Green Bay on his mind. When they have played the Packers there recently the team has stayed in Appleton, about 30 minutes away from Green Bay. There are about two hotels in Appleton, population 73,000.
By the time Bennett got inside the main auditorium of Seahawks headquarters for his weekly press conference with Seattle-area media, he was trying to make amends for that last joke. He began his presser saying Seahawks travel man Jeremy Young was the team’s best employee and deserves a raise.
Bennett was wearing a black hoodie. It had a cartoon depiction of himself with quote bubbles beside him and his recent quotes: “Two pumps gets you a baby. Three pumps gets you a fine.”
That, of course, is in reference to the NFL fining him more than $12,000 for his three-hip-thrust sack dance during the Dec. 15 win over Los Angeles.
The smiling Bennett said sales of those hoodies on his website — blacksanta72.com, don’t you know — are “going through the roof.”
All jokes aside – if you can keep jokes aside from Bennett — he and fellow Seahawks ends Cliff Avril and Frank Clark are key to Seattle’s quest of advancing to the divisional round Jan. 14 at Atlanta.
Avril is a former Lion who began his career in 2008 with Detroit, when the team finished 0-16. He had a career-high 11 1/2 sacks this regular season and made the Pro Bowl with Bennett, who had five sacks while missing five games because of arthroscopic knee surgery. Clark emerged in his second NFL season with 10 sacks, becoming a mismatch for offensive linemen off the edge and, at times, inside as hybrid tackle in passing situations.
There will be many of those Saturday for Seattle’s defense. Stafford and the Lions barely run it; they are 30th in the league in rushing yards per game. But even with a broken tip of the middle finger on his passing hand, Stafford was sixth in the NFL in passing yards in the regular season. He threw for at least 340 yards in four different games.
“I think it’s one of those games that you emphasize just creating havoc for the quarterback — whether it’s sacks, hurries or hits,” Bennett said. “It’s one of those things every game you want to harass the quarterback. This game is no different. Matthew Stafford is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. He does a lot of great things with the ball, especially impressive with his side arm when he throws the ball sideways, like a cowboy.”
For that one, brief moment Tuesday, Bennett wasn’t shooting from the hip.
But about an hour later, he was on the practice field stretching and beginning to prepare for the Lions — while strumming air guitar to Jimi Hendrix blaring from the team’s sound system.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle