In a move that seemed almost inevitable, the Patriots have claimed Martellus Bennett off waivers from Green Bay, according to media reports.
In order to make room for Bennett on the 53-man roster, veteran defensive end Geneo Grissom appears to have been let go.
Just yesterday, the Packers parted with the veteran tight end for his alleged “failure to disclose a medical condition.” It’s unclear exactly what that injury might be, but his erstwhile head coach in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy disclosed to reporters that Bennett has recently been suffering from a shoulder injury.
After being traded from Chicago in March 2016, Bennett helped New England capture its fifth Super Bowl trophy this past February, but then elected to sign a three-year free-agent deal with the Packers a month later. Since then, Bennett appeared to wear out his welcome in Wisconsin, particularly over the past month, when he stated publicly that he intended this to be his final season in the NFL.
Whether or not Bennett is willing or even healthy enough to contribute to the Patriots for the remainder of 2017 remains to be seen, but New England’s interest in bringing him back makes perfect sense. The Patriots attempted to fill his void by trading for Dwayne Allen this past offseason, but Allen’s production hasn’t come close to matching Bennett’s from a year ago. Plus, with New England’s recent offensive struggles in the red zone and Bennett’s having been not far removed from the team, he could theoretically relearn the Patriots’ playbook and provide another potent dimension to this offense.
There’s also recent precedent for New England getting back together successfully with a player who left town via free agency. In 2014, running back LeGarrette Blount signed with Pittsburgh, only to fall out with the Steelers and eventually be released that same season. He immediately re-signed with the Patriots, for whom he’d played in 2013. Blount helped the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl later that same year.
In Bennett, they can only hope for similar results.
If Bennett does, in fact, suit up again for the Patriots, he’ll be reunited with former Packers teammate Ricky Jean Francois. The Pack released the veteran defensive lineman on Nov. 1, and the Patriots scooped him up six days later.
On Thursday, Jean Francois – his two-word, French-sounding last name is not hyphenated – told reporters he’s dedicating all his time right now to digesting his new playbook so he can be available and prepared to help New England whenever he’s called upon to do so. And he used some apropos analogies to describe what his life is like right now.
“It’s like, you know English, but somebody’s teaching you French. I’ve got to learn French now.
“It’s an ongoing transition,” Jean Francois added. “Biggest thing now is learn that playbook. Anything could happen. They could throw me in the fire… the playbook is my best friend right now – my wife, my girlfriend, my everything.”
Rocky road home
Despite his team’s historic struggles against the Broncos in Denver, Colorado native Nate Solder says it’s always fun for him to go back to his home state for games.
“Absolutely. First of all, it’s a really competitive atmosphere, and I grew up there, so, I know the diehard fans that they have. That all makes it fun. I watched that team play for a lot of years and I get to play there with a lot of people that I care for watching me.”
He was asked if he has any family or friends who remain Broncos fans and thus make homecomings tough for him at all.
“No family members, but plenty of friends, yes,” he laughed.
The Patriots held a walkthrough workout on their practice field Thursday. They’ll suit up one more time on Friday before boarding their team plane to Colorado, where they’ll remain following the Broncos game Sunday night.
Next week, New England will utilize the Air Force Academy’s football facilities in Colorado Springs, more than an hour south of Denver, in preparation for their Week 11 tilt with the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City. The Patriots will depart Colorado a week from Saturday for the trip to Mexico.