Q: How has the team been making progress through the first few days of camp?
MB: Overall, it's just constantly growing. I know it's all about growth and building more chemistry, and I think we're doing that very well.
Q: What's your chemistry like with Jimmy Garoppolo as the first preseason game approaches?
MB: I've just been working with him like I'm working with everybody else, so we're just working. Whoever is throwing it, I'm just trying to get open and give them all the same looks. If we're watching tape, I'm getting mental reps, or if we're on the field and we're talking, it's all about just being on the same page.
Q: Did the team do anything special for Tom Brady's birthday in the locker room?
MB: Not yet.
Q: Do you have anything planned for later?
MB: Not really.
Q: You seem comfortable here in New England, but do you feel like you had to change yourself coming here?
MB: No, when I came here, no one asked me to be anybody else besides myself and I think that's one of the biggest things – the freedom they give me to be who I am. I think they understand I'm smarter than I look, I just look like this. Overall, they just let me be me and I think that's the biggest thing about making progress and getting to know everybody. When you're able to be yourself, everyone's able to see how authentic you are and understand who you are as a person, not one day I'm 'this' person and one day I'm 'that' person. I don't want to be like Nurse Jackie.
Q: How much pressure is on players to be able to find their voice in the NFL and not be automaton?
MB: At the end of the day, I think everybody has to stand for something. Nowadays, a lot of guys don't have morals or don't really stand for anything. Wherever their doctor takes them, or whatever brand it is that represents them, they do whatever that brand says, even if they believe in something different. The way me and my brother [Seattle Seahawks DE Michael Bennett] have always been is, speak our minds and stand for what we believe in and stand for something. It's like if you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything. Whatever I believe in, I speak on that. I'm very honest, I go about that and that's who I am. I learn from guys like Muhammad Ali, Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal] and those guys growing up. All those guys were able to make a difference in the world, and whether it was penning a letter called, "Dear Black Boy," that I put in the Player's Tribune, or my brother talking, wherever he may be, we believe in these things and we believe that we can make a difference. We were given a position of power where a lot of people look up to us, a lot of kids, so you have to stand for something. Otherwise, the kids, they'll look on commercials and they'll see McDonalds, and they'll think they can eat McDonalds and make it to the NFL, every day for lunch, but that's not what it is. We all eat healthy, so that's what we've got to be telling them because that's what we're doing.
Q: Are we at a crucial time in society right now for players of all backgrounds to act as role models?
MB: I think it's flipping over. With everything that's going on in the world, I think people are starting to transition. History repeats itself, so there are a lot of athletes stepping up to the plate, whether it's Carmelo Anthony, Michael Bennett, or whoever it may be. A lot of guys are stepping up and saying something. Those guys know where we come from. You never forget where you came from and where you're going to lead others to where you want to take them. I just think that's what it is right now.
Q: How has your comfort level on the field been progressing since you got to New England?
MB: I'm getting better. It's a process, you know, any time you learn any offense. This is my third offense in four years. It's just learning and trying to get on the same page, being able to do it fast so I'm not thinking out there. I'm still thinking a little bit, but the more repetition I get, the easier it will be. It's muscle memory and everything, so it's still a process, I'm still learning.
Q: How much does it help you to end practice making multiple catches in a row?
MB: Yeah, I was talking to guys because when you're not the guy, the first guy, your mindset is different so you have to be ready at all times. You never know when the ball is going to come your way, so it's just developing that mindset and the ability to make plays. Even if you don't touch the ball for two or three periods, you should still be able to make a play.
Q: Do you think the attention on all your off-field interests overshadows how much of a student of the game you are?
MB: I think that should be understood. You should understand that I get paid to play football, so I treat it like anything else. The off-the-field stuff, a lot of people are interested in because it seems to be unique and different, but on the field, I take the same approach I take when I pick up any other subject, whether it's movie-making or if it's wanting to learn more about finance or investments. I study the game. Every single day, we're walking down the hallway and I have my iPad open, I'm studying plays. I've seen every catch that Aaron Hernandez made in this offense, all the plays, all the personnel [groups] with him. I watch big receivers, I watch every tight end in the league because I'm trying to add more things to my repertoire, so I'm constantly learning how to get open and how to play. I'm still a student of the game, just like I'm a student of life.
Q: If you had to rate your progression into this offense on a scale of 1-10, where would you put yourself?
MB: A 15. I don't like scales. They say we only use 10 percent of our brains, and I believe if you believe you only use 10 percent, that will be the maximum you can do. If you give me a 10, I feel like I should go higher.
Q: How good do you think this defense can be as you play against them?
MB: They're good, very good at disguising things. For me, it's a game every single day because I haven't seen this defense enough to know what they do. I don't know what they're installing this week. In the past, I've played on teams so long that I know what they're installing, I know what blitz they're playing, I know which players play this way. So I'm still learning my opponent out here. I know I have to go against Nink [Rob Ninkovich] a little bit, I know I have to go against Shea [McClellin] a little bit different, but I know him a little bit better. I want to go against Shea a little bit more because I know him a little bit better than the other guys. Then you have Jabaal [Sheared] and everybody, you've got Devin [McCourty], everybody is covering me a little bit differently and I haven't really had a chance to study them as much as I would like to defeat them in practice. It's just going in like a game for me and preparing every day in practice like a game.
Q: What's Jimmy Garoppolo like on the field?
MB: He's a nice guy.
Q: What nicknames do you like best of the ones you and Rob Gronkowski have come up with for each other?
MB: I think we're just going to keep making as many as possible, that's our goal. I know Beans and Rice may be one. All the twins, anything that's a combo.
Q: What's Rob Gronkowski like as a football player?
MB: Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] is really good. It's been a pleasure playing with him. I think we've been raising each other's game. He does some things very well and I do some things different. The thing is, we're built alike, but we're two totally different players. The way we run routes, the way we go about our business is totally different. It's been very fun playing with him because he's very passionate. He brings it every day in meetings and on the field. It's just been a joy to play with him because he's one of those guys that makes you up your game, and I try to do the same for him, but I think we've just been feeding off each other a lot. He's been in this offense for a long time so I ask him a lot of questions and he helps me out a lot. There are so many different plays I'm like, 'Hey Rob, we've got this on this play?' and he's like 'Yeah, that's what we got.' I always double check with him, but he's really good.
Q: Given what you knew about Rob Gronkowski before you got here, does it surprise you to see how much he knows about football and how much of a student of the game he is?
MB: Not really, because any time you have guys out there making plays, you know they're studying out there and that they're a student of the game. You just can't go out there and play football, because guys are double-teaming him and doing different things for him, so he has to prepare very well. Our coach is very good, coach Dabes [Brian Daboll] is very good as well at preparing us. Rob does a great job and he's been one of the top in the league for a long time, so you know, he does his thing.
Q: Can you explain what you meant when you said you wanted to be the Kanye West of the NFL?
MB: I said some people call me the Kanye of the NFL, only because I think outside of the box and I'm progressive in the way I'm thinking. I'm not limiting myself to be one type of individual, I'm open and expanding my own box and building my own place in the world. That's basically what I meant. Whether it's dabbling in music, movies, wanting to build furniture, there's so much I want to do. I want to build theme parks, I want to build hotels, and I want to win Super Bowls. It's just one of those things. For [Kanye], he wants to make music, he wants to win Grammys, which is his Super Bowl trophy, and then off the field, he makes clothes and everything else that he wants to do. I just feel like it's having a dynamic personality as far as an ability to learn and create and make things for others, and make the world a better place through the things that you do and the things that you make.
Q: How does it make you feel to hear Bill Belichick say this is one of the best tight end groups he's had in 16 years?
MB: It makes me feel good. He's a hell of a coach and he's been around for a really, really long time. I think we're doing well but there's so much growth for us to do. We're not anywhere near where we want to be and I think that's the most exciting thing about what we're doing right now. Once we get to where we want to go and continue to progress, I think it could be very dangerous.
Q: Does it surprise you to hear Bill Belichick have so much praise for you guys?
MB: I've only been around him for a couple of months, so I don't know if that's something that he does do or that he doesn't do. I don't know, I'm not surprised; he's a very nice guy.
Q: Does Bill Belichick verbalize that praise to you guys?
MB: Not me, he always tells me keep working. I'm like, 'Alright, coach,' and I just go out and keep working. I just try to do my job as it says everywhere on the wall, 'Do your job,' and you'll be OK around here, so I just try to make sure I do my job.
Q: What does 'Do your job' mean to you?
MB: Be where you're supposed to be, do what you're supposed to do. Whatever your job is, don't try to do too much. Just do your job on the plays that come
Q: Have you been impressed with the tight end depth?
MB: Yeah, all the guys are very, very good. Everyone has different dynamics. I love [James] Develin. Develin is one of the best fullbacks I ever played with. I love playing with him. He's really smart and can do a lot of different things. All the guys are working and all the guys are pushing, and that's all you can ask. We're teaching those guys, we're taking them under our wing, the younger guys, and teaching them new things. Whether it's in the meetings, pulling up your seat and saying, 'Right here, hey, you could do that,' everyone is leaning on each other.