RENTON Michael Bennett rages on.
“He’s a passionate guy,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Sunday of his Pro Bowl defensive end, following the biggest of his many blowups on the practice field this preseason. “And we got him riled up today.”
In the players’ return to practice after two days off the field, Bennett didn’t like new starting left tackle Bradley Sowell putting pass rusher Josh Shirley on the ground during a no-pads protection drill. Bennett jumped in to take the next snap. Sowell, who had gone out, re-entered to take that snap against Bennett. After the snap, the former Arizona Cardinals left tackle and multiple-position backup held Bennett by both shoulders, drawing a flag from one of the officials the team hires to adjudicate practices. Sowell then slammed Bennett to the ground on his back.
The now-helmetless Bennett got to his feet and charged at Sowell, throwing punches at the tackle’s helmet that was still on his head. Teammates and coaches, including offensive line coach Tom Cable, intervened. When Doug Baldwin came down the field from passing drills and got to Bennett alone seconds later, Bennett went after the No. 1 wide receiver. Then Bennett chucked his helmet about 10 yards.
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Carroll then came over to talk to Bennett, who then did not participate in the rest of practice.
After it, Bennett and Sowell walked off the field into the locker room side by side. Bennett was calmly talking to Sowell and eventually smiling.
Anyone with ears knows Bennett has been vocally unhappy about his contract that has two years remaining on it. The Seahawks have yet to show a willingness to do anything more than listen to his grievances rather than renegotiate, so as to not set the precedent of re-doing any deal that has multiple years remaining on it. Bennett had a career-high 10 sacks last season, has spent most of games in the opposing backfield the last two seasons as an outside end and inside, rush tackle -- and is the 27th-highest-paid defensive end in the league.
Bennett doesn’t like the protection the Seahawks -- and pretty much every football team above junior high these days -- afford quarterbacks and running backs when they have the ball in practice, while linemen get no safeguards during daily, hand-to-hand (and often head) combat each snap.
Bennett is testing Seattle’s offensive line, which could have new starters in all five positions this season and is no where near settled, three weeks to the day before the games get real Sept. 11 against Miami. Rookie guard Germain Ifedi stood up to Bennett after plays early in training camp this month. Bennett has also gotten into it with left guard Mark Glowinski and new center Justin Britt.
So his tour of front liners on the O-line has really only excluded right tackles Garry Gilliam and J’Marcus Webb (Webb returned to practice Sunday from a knee injury and will play Thursday’s exhibition against Dallas).
Bennett is also -- “maybe, yeah,” in Carroll’s words -- frustrated by barely playing this preseason. He stood on the sidelines in team workout gear during the exhibition opener at Kansas City; Carroll said the defensive end was ill. The Seahawks pulled him out of Thursday’s second preseason game against Minnesota after the game’s second play.
In other words, there is a lot igniting Bennett’s fire right now.
“There’s a lot riding on this season -- for our whole football team,” Carroll said.
The team didn’t make him available to speak following practice. But Carroll and Cable did.
I asked Cable if it was a positive of Bennett going after his guys and the offensive linemen standing up to him.
“I think there’s two ways: There’s parts of it that are good, but ultimately you don’t want either one of them fighting or doing any of that,” Cable said of Sowell and Bennett Sunday. “They’ve got to figure out how to manage that, because this stuff’s going to happen in the game. And if you do it in the game they are going to throw you out -- and take your money. So a good lesson for both he and Mike. Both guys are wrong and they’ve got to do right -- and they will do that.”
Asked if he felt Bennett in particular is testing the offensive linemen, Cable said: “Uhhhh... I guess. I don’t know. We’ve tested them pretty good (going) back. I don’t know.”