By William C. Rhoden | Mar 12, 2019
“I’m excited about it,” Bennett said Monday during an appearance at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium.
Bennett, who was scheduled to take a physical with the Patriots in Boston on Tuesday, said he looked forward to being coached by Bill Belichick and playing on a team led by Tom Brady.
“From a football perspective there’s a respect for Belichick,” Bennett said. “I consider him the Yoda of football when it comes to the ins and outs of what’s happening around how to prepare for a game.”
As for leaving the Eagles after a season and joining what many fans consider the NFL’s Evil Empire, Bennett said he embraces the change.
“The Patriots are a team that people love to hate because they always win,” he said. “The opportunity to learn from that and be in that environment is good.”
Bennett said the trade to New England initially surprised him. He was one of a core of NFL players who followed Colin Kaepernick’s lead beginning in 2016 and protested during the playing of the national anthem.
The protest agitated many fans and drew the ire of President Donald Trump, who condemned the protesting players and suggested they should be fired.
Belichick and Brady are enthusiastic supporters of the president. In meetings with Patriots executives, Bennett said he would continue to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem.
“I explained to them is that my integrity mean everything,” Bennett said. “I think they respect that about me, they respect who I am as an individual.”
He added: “The Patriots have been trying to trade for me for two years. Last year they tried to get me, the year before they tried to get me.”
Now they have him.
Bennett would neither deny nor confirm that his younger brother, Martellus, would also join the Patriots. “I’d love to play with my brother but I don’t want to be the force that forces my brother to play because I’m playing on the team,” he said. “I want him to play purely because he wants to play.
“The game is played a lot better when you truly want to play because you want to play. It’s important, if he decides to come back, that’s the first thing he should think about. As a brother that’s my ultimate goal to see him happy, and whatever happiness looks for him, that’s what I wanted.”
He said he was looking forward to engaging Belichick and Brady about their support of a president who is largely viewed to be hostile to the interests of people of color.
“I think it’s important not to to run away from those conversations, or not hear their ideas about why they think the way they do,” he said.
“I think it’s an opportunity for growth to have those conversations,” he added. “If we don’t allow ourselves to have those conversations, we’re stunting our growth.”
Bennett was a major defensive contributor to the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl championship in 2013. Last March, he was traded to the Eagles. “I’m the same person, it’s just that my voice is being heard more,” Bennett said.
Bennett is the author of “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.” How will the Patriots fan base respond to what Bennett does on the field and says away from it?
“Those conversations will present themselves,” Bennett said. “I think it’s going to be really unique.”