Seahawks Michael Bennett Patriots Martellus Bennett vs Everyone

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    Editor’s Note: This story about Michael and Martellus Bennett was originally published on August 1st. 3, 2016. Michael announced his retirement on Tuesday.

    michael and martellus bennett tend to perplex people. This becomes clear when we stop for lunch at a West Hollywood cafe, the kind of crisp, elegant place that serves food on wooden boards. the brothers separate as soon as they enter. Michael circles a display of expensive candy (“I don’t eat American chocolate,” he sniffs) and Martellus hovers near the entrance, offering health and safety tips to patrons as they leave. the restaurant. “Wrap it up,” she advises a man walking out the door. the guy stares at him, trying to figure out why a stranger is telling him to use a condom.

    Reading: Michael bennett and martellus bennett

    We find a table on the patio and the brothers sit next to each other. If it weren’t for his massive builds—Michael is 6-foot-4 and Martellus is 6-foot-6—the two NFL stars could easily be mistaken for hipsters. both wear ripped black jeans and designer T-shirts and have fluffy beards that frame their chins like fuzzy halos. Michael, who is larger, says his facial hair is supposed to disorient him. “He always wanted to look like, ‘Is he a bum or is he rich?'” he says. “That’s my number 1 goal.”

    a waitress walks up and asks michael if he ordered the rotisserie chicken. “Don’t be racist,” she says, a joke that makes her hands shake a little as he puts down the plate. (in fact, he ordered the chicken). “What kind of salt do they have? Himalayan salt?”

    martellus dips a spoon into the bowl she has placed in front of him. “This is heavy soup,” she says. “Can I have more tortilla strips? I like that crunch.”

    The waitress asks if they want anything else.

    “world peace,” michael replies.

    “genius,” says martellus.

    This is a lesson that everyone who encounters the Bennetts eventually learns: at any given moment, you may be getting screwed. Take, for example, our conversation about Jerry Jones. As Martellus finishes his soup, he tells a story about the time he visited the billionaire’s mansion for tea and perused Jones’ selection of luxury cutlery. “Once you get rich,” he tells him, “you start collecting weird objects like cutlery.”

    • three time pro bowler bennett says he is retiring

      the bennett brothers road to success

      When I ask the brothers what they would charge if they were as rich as the owner of the jeans, they answer at the same time and without hesitation: “people”.

      “I’d like to have someone who has my blood type and my kidneys, things like that,” Michael says. “They’d just be on deck. I’d be like, ‘My kidney is failing, it’s time!'”

      martellus points a finger at an imaginary organ donor. “oh, is that water, jimmy? it better be!”

      “It’s time for your heart,” Michael says. “Sorry, you have to go.”

      I scan their faces, trying to confirm they’re joking. martellus takes the spoon from him. “This soup is so good,” he says.

      although dozens of brothers have made it to the nfl, it is rare for two brothers to play at an elite level. barbers did. So did the Mannings and the Pounceys. The Bennetts, both former professional bowlers, belong to this club. Martellus, 29, who was traded to the Patriots in the offseason, led all tight ends in receptions in 2014. Michael, who turns 31 this fall and plays for the Seahawks, is one of the best pass-rushers in the nfl.

      Their performance has given them name recognition, but it’s their comments that have catapulted them to notoriety. The brothers speak with loose candor, addressing the issue of black lives matter, the NCAA and inequity in the NFL as easily as offensive schemes and multiple defensive fronts. michael is famous for his outlandish sound bites: he compared the panthers to a handsome cousin and revealed his personal sexual agenda. in new england, reporters accustomed to bland patriotic style fan themselves with martellus’s colorful quotes.

      “I’m not going to go up and give a russell wilson answer,” says michael.

      In a league where the powers that be do away with quirks like inspectors on a factory line, the Bennetts have unapologetically kept themselves. And so I’m spending three days in Los Angeles trying to understand how they’ve done it, how they’ve not only survived in the NFL but also thrived.

      At lunch, Martellus turns to Michael. “Do guys ever come up to you and say, ‘Man, did you say that? I wish I could say that…'”

      “all the time,” he replies.

      “They think it’s weird that we’re ourselves,” Martellus says. “I think it’s weird that you’re trying to be something you’re not.”

      As we crawl through the city, from Hollywood to Burbank in an SUV, the brothers watch sunburned pedestrians. Martellus lives in Chicago but comes here often for work; Michael, who spends the off-season at home in Hawaii (his wife, who is Samoan, has family there), is visiting for a few days. he finds the hilarious. As we pass a long-haired rocker standing on the sidewalk, Michael turns his head. “He’s wearing one of those Kanye T-shirts,” he says. “those that go down to the ankles.”

      “I feel like I’m the kanye of the nfl,” says martellus.

      We headed to the office of an animation company called Stoopid Buddy Standios. Martellus, who has already self-published an animated short and a children’s book, has been collaborating with the company on a stop-motion TV show. When I ask him how he finds the bandwidth for everything, he says that while playing in the NFL is physically taxing, the average player actually has a lot of free time: “If I wake up at 6 a.m. to work out, I’m done by 10.” a.m., most kids play video games all day.”

      michael, on the other hand, is interested in politics (he supported bernie sanders during the primaries) and loves to cook and travel. he has three daughters and coaches his basketball teams. He runs a foundation that promotes healthy eating and has a garden in Hawaii. I ask him what he grows there.

      martellus leans in and interrupts: “deez nuts!”

      Interviewing the Bennetts is a bit like being an audience member on an improv show, occasionally called in to offer directions. they don’t just finish each other’s sentences, they anticipate them; the brothers share several volumes of inside jokes. Michael’s wife, Pele, says they have operated in perfect synchronicity since she met them in high school. “Everyone who didn’t know them thought they were twins,” she says.

      martellus, in fact, is 16 months younger than michael. He was born after the family moved from Louisiana to San Diego, where his father, Michael Sr., was stationed at a naval base. when his parents divorced in the early 1990s, his father single-handedly raised the children. “As far back as I can remember, I was always with my dad,” says Martellus. “He exemplified what it means to make sacrifices for your family.” After several years of being a single father, the Bennett’s father remarried and moved the family to a city outside of Houston, where he got a job with Enron.

      As children, the brothers were inseparable. They spent their summers on their grandparents’ farm in Louisiana, where they fished, hunted birds with homemade bows, and, according to Michael, “body-beaten cows.” in houston, they rode a go-kart, dodging traffic to get to taco bell. when enron imploded by massive accounting fraud and michael sr. lost his job, the kids helped his father install computer systems for local schools, crawling up walls and laying cables. They slept together in a bunk bed. They played soccer together. on more than one occasion, they brought together their childhood enemies. “It was never one on one,” says Martellus. “if you were to fight michael, he would come out of the smoke as batman.”

      Although both brothers played starring roles on their high school team (at one point, they terrified quarterbacks as bookends on the defensive line), Martellus was the most sought-after prospect. He was a five-star tight end recruit and nationally ranked basketball player coveted by the likes of Duke. During his senior year, Martellus at first declared for the NBA draft, but instead signed at Texas A&M, joining his older brother, who had deferred college for a year due to a drafting error. file.

      The Bennetts can only remember one time in their lives when they felt isolated from each other. when michael was 10 years old, his appendix ruptured. he was rushed to the emergency room for surgery and he ended up spending several months in the hospital, undergoing multiple operations. “I had to relearn how to walk,” he says. “It was a very difficult time for my family because I was very young and they had another child at home.”

      As Michael tells the story, I look over at Martellus, who usually seems puzzled whenever his older brother speaks. instead, he is tense. I ask him if he was scared when Michael got sick. “At that age, we played all the time,” he says. “You go to the hospital and try to get me to play…”

      martellus stops talking and bows his head for a moment, wiping tears from his cheeks. his brother squeezes his shoulder, then bows her head as well. a minute or so passes before the younger brother speaks. “I wasn’t afraid… I just didn’t know,” he says, eyes moist with emotion. “He couldn’t do anything.”

      Michael took over a year to fully recover from his surgeries, which left him with a deep l-shaped scar. Martellus says the experience brought them even closer. “It was hard for me because I never really had, to this day, I don’t really have friends, because I never needed them,” he says.

      “I always had my brother.”

      While dining one night at a fancy hot dog restaurant (if you’re wondering if the bennetts made lewd jokes about sausages, what do you think?), asked michael, who is famous for criticizing the league’s overpaid quarterbacks, what he thinks of jay cutler.

      “the worst quarterback in the nfl,” he says.

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      “I’d be wide open and he’d throw double coverage,” says Martellus, who spent the past three seasons as Cutler’s teammate in Chicago.

      if there’s an unspoken rule in the nfl against roasting other players, the bennetts break it every day. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of his opinions on various football figures:

      eli manning

      martellus: “eli? he’s great. he’s like a normal white kid you see in the park trying to teach his kids how to play soccer and you know he can’t really play soccer.”

      jeff fisher

      martellus: “if a qb was between 7 and 9, he could never find a job.”

      michael: “make sure it’s on nfc west.”

      brock osweiler

      michael: “I have more sacks than touchdowns.” (this is exact).

      martellus: “I have caught more balls than you have completed.” (also exact).

      pete carroll

      martellus: “joel osteen”.

      michael: “tom cruise. i feel like pete carroll is like benjamin button. he doesn’t want to get old. he gets younger every year. what’s going on?”

      martellus: “that’s what money does.”

      roger goodell

      michael: “a-hole. nah I’m just kidding, you can’t say that. overpaid.”

      j. J. watt

      michael: “dominant player”.

      martellus: “cheesy. half of the nfl is cheesy though.”

      michael: “people love j.j. watt, but they don’t really like j.j. watt, you know what I’m saying?”

      sam bradford

      (both smile)

      michael: “the best quarterback in the nfl.”

      martellus: “vicious. competitive.”

      michael: “a real montana joe.”

      tom brady

      martellus: “the silver fox you never get to see but hear about. You can only take one picture and you have to stay outside for a year just to get it.”

      jason witten

      martellus: “I hated jason witten. I appreciated his game, but I always hated him.”

      newton cam

      michael: “probably my favorite quarterback to hit the most.”

      I ask michael later what it feels like to fire a superstar like newton. “It’s like making love,” he says. “every season, it reaches that climax. it’s like” – michael pauses, rolls his eyes, and makes a noise that sounds like the guttural gasp of a goat that has just been slaughtered.

      “every other moment is like foreplay,” says martellus. “Finally you get to the bedroom.”

      “yeah, go to the bedroom,” michael says. “take it off.”

      his brother looks at him. “That’s a good analogy.”

      “That’s a great analogy,” says Michael.

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      When Martellus Bennett was 12 years old, he started his first business. he hired a crew of local kids to mow his neighbors’ lawns (he made them sign real contracts, he says) and then paid them with burgers and fries. he then used those profits to buy cheap candy, which he then sold to the same children. His father says that he would sometimes come home to find that Martellus had sold the family’s bicycles and toys. “He was a hustler,” he says with a laugh.

      These days, the Bennett brothers are outspoken about their shared belief that they’re underpaid. (Michael, playing on one of the most favorable team contracts in the league, has been trying to persuade the Seahawks to change their deal.) But when they talk about wealth and NFL salaries, it’s clear they care less about money than energy. “If you’re a gamer, all you own is your image, and your image has a date on it,” says Michael. “The only way we can be sustainable is to make our own companies.”

      Martellus points out that football contracts, which are short and unguaranteed, pale in comparison to deals given in the NBA. “do you know what nfl means?” question.

      no fun league? not for long?

      “n-s for lease”.

      It may seem difficult to sympathize with this idea: the notion that a pair of brothers who have earned more than $20 million playing soccer could be dissatisfied with the system that has made them rich. But consider: Michael and Martellus were raised by a good man who lost his job because of the bad actors above him. they’ve seen hundreds of players walk up and down with little to show for it, while the suits benefiting from their bodies stay put. they know what it means to be labor instead of capital. “Growing up, black people never owned anything,” says Martellus. “I want to build. I want to do.”

      turns to michael. “How many black owners have there been in the history of the NFL?”

      “zero”, says michael. “We are check cashers, not check writers.”

      As we drive through Burbank, the palm-tree dotted suburb where Stoopid Buddy Standios is headquartered, the conversation turns to the NFL Players Association. the brothers believe that the union has not been innovative enough to tap new sources of income. “why don’t we hire people who used to work at microsoft, at google, apple?” Michael asks. “We can’t be athletes who think like athletes think. We need people who say: I used to work at Nike. Let’s go to China and make our own shoes.”

      “That’s my problem with the NFLPA,” says Martellus. “I feel like they’re always playing defense and not offense. They never make progressive moves.”

      “We could be like WWE: They started their own channel,” Michael says.

      “we could make our own movies.”

      “we could make our own program.”

      I ask michael, a substitute player representative for the seahawks, how he would strengthen the union. He points out that unless the requisite stars, quarterbacks in particular, take a leadership role in organizing players, the NFLPA will never have enough clout to pressure the league into negotiations. “in the nba, lebron james, chris paul … they are at the forefront,” he says. “There is no Peyton Manning defending the rest of the players. He is a great player, but what has he done for the league?”

      When we park outside the studio, the brothers are still exchanging ideas for money. As soon as we walk in, Martellus walks away to greet the artists and entertainers in the office, who seem unimpressed by the towering NFL player in their midst. Near the door, a giant robot stands sentinel, thrusting its metal crotch toward the front desk. michael runs up to him and gestures back.

      We head upstairs, where the studio has prepared elaborate 3D maquettes of two characters that Martellus dreamed up for his television show, which he hopes to introduce to a major network. As he explains the premise-The Gridiron Guild is about a boy, Blitz, who plays soccer with otherworldly creatures-Michael sits near us, fiddling with a Rubik’s cube. “this is beautiful, this is artgasm right here,” says martellus. He leans down to examine the blitz figure, who is holding a soccer ball the size of a walnut. looks like a tiny version of him. “If I don’t do black characters, who will?” he says. “in frozen, there isn’t a single black character in arendelle. i don’t even know where arendelle is, but there has to be a black person somewhere. one of us made it there, dammit.” When Martellus and I get up to leave, Michael tosses the Rubik’s cube, complete, onto the table. We look up, surprised. “You can’t always pay attention to greatness,” he says.

      the brothers meet in the morning at unbreakable performance center, a small private gym in hollywood where several nfl stars train in the off-season. As Drake bangs on the speakers, some players move around, moving to the beat. I move in close to Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowny, who has a sweet smile and is about the size of a sub-zero refrigerator. We see Michael perform a peculiar exercise, pumping his groin against a resistance band while he lies on his back. “That’s why jocks have so many babies,” he says between grunts.

      After an hour of lifting weights, one of the trainers orders everyone to gather around him. he puts his hands on his hips. “One thing we’re not going to allow here is guys not doing a good technique,” he barks at him, mimicking the wrong way to do an exercise.

      Most of the players nod, but Michael looks irritated; as the coach lectures the group, he narrows his eyes and crosses his arms, shifting from foot to foot. finally, he bursts out: “if you have something to say, say it to my face“, he tells the coach, who seems surprised. an awkward silence falls over the gym. Martellus, behind me, stands up from a bench, trying to make eye contact with his brother. A few minutes later, after the group has dissipated, he walks over to Michael and briefly puts a hand on his arm to calm him down.

      Ever since they were in college, the Bennetts have heard him whisper: They’re hard to train. Michael, in particular, was known for his run-ins with the A&M staff. “If he feels like he’s being looked down upon, or that he’s right on an issue, he’ll be honest about it,” says former college teammate Red Bryant, now a defensive tackle with the Arizona Cardinals. “If he wasn’t so talented and didn’t make the plays that he does, he couldn’t be as stubborn and colorful.” And yet, in 2009, Michael was not drafted, in part due to criticism from the coaches of him.

      I ask the brothers if they think they are hard to handle. “I’ve butted heads with trainers,” Michael says.

      “I’ve always been very easy to train,” says Martellus. “I mean, there was one time I did the ‘throw me the ball, coach’ song… but that was just the chorus.”

      However, Martellus, who declared for the draft the year before Michael, was selected in the second round by Dallas. But he languished on the bench behind indestructible veteran Jason Witten, averaging just 1.5 receptions per game over his first three seasons. When the Giants offered Martellus a one-year contract and a chance to start, he left. that year, he racked up more yards than during the previous three seasons combined. “new york changed my life,” he says. “When I got there, they gave me a list of art museums. They gave me a list of places I should see, places I should eat… I found a balance in my life outside of football.” the following season, he signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Bears.

      The Bennetts maintain that, contrary to the beliefs of some traditionalists, they play better when given the freedom to improvise, both on and off the field. Michael found that balance in Seattle. “A lot of white coaches want to be parents to black players,” he says. “pete carroll is not like- ‘you have to tuck your shirt in,'” he shakes his head. “Do you know how much easier it is to work for someone when you can be yourself? Why do you think Google, Apple and Facebook are so successful? When people can be who they really are, they do so much better.” The Seahawks, he says, are the Google of the NFL. “they let you be yourself.”

      Since moving to Seattle, Michael, once seen as a tweener, too small to play plate but too slow to play wing, has thrived. for offensive coordinators, it’s an unsolvable math problem, attacking quarterbacks from different points on the line. Martellus says he takes pride every time he distributes his brother’s scouting report to him before games. “Sitting in those meetings, getting ready to play him, has been the best thing of my career,” he says. “you try not to smile.”

      Earlier this year, after an injury-plagued season with the Bears, Martellus was traded to the Patriots. the couple looks like it could be a train wreck; Foxborough, where players rarely speak frankly to the media, isn’t exactly known for his outspokenness. (Even Gronk, for all his antics, usually gives harmless dates.) But Martellus insists that he is delighted to be in New England, where he will play the Seahawks in November. “I’ve been in the league for nine years and I’ve only been on two teams where guys were a team: the New York Giants and now the Patriots.”

      “That’s why this season is so inspiring: he’s on the patriots, I’m on the seahawks,” says michael. “what’s better than both of us going to the super bowl in houston…and beating them?”

      on michael’s last day in los angeles, the three of us meet on the rooftop of a hotel in beverly hills, in a restaurant that feels transported from a connecticut country club; We’re surrounded by old men dressed like Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island and women in sunglasses with lenses the size of grapefruit. a few overdressed kids stab fluffy omelettes. Michael, wearing shorts and a baseball cap that says “wild,” sits up and surveys the scene. “I don’t know where I am,” he says. “I feel like I’m in a place where black people don’t come.”

      As a group of people walk past us, a tall slim woman like a model collides with martellus. she turns around; She is Elizabeth Berkley of Saved By The Bell and Showgirls fame. “sorry!” she says. “She was hugging my mom.”

      martellus flashes a bright smile. “I thought you wanted to hug me.”

      michael orders a bowl of sweet potato fries and a ginger ale. after the waiter brings him his drink-the poor boy obeys when michael tells him to fill his glass exactly a third of his capacity-we talk about legacy. michael says he doesn’t mind getting into the hall of fame. “Success is measured in many different ways,” he says. “success to me is being super happy and enjoying your family. you look at these people who have so much money,” he points to a nearby table, some of the aforementioned thurston howell lookalikes, “and they can’t even be themselves”. (About an hour later, the table will ask Martellus for a photo.)

      michael stabs his fries. “When I win, I watch a movie with my daughters when I get home,” he says. “When I lose, I watch a movie with my daughters when I get home.”

      martellus, who has a daughter, says soccer is easy compared to fatherhood. “Sunday’s game is like last week’s,” he says. “But I may go home and my daughter doesn’t like purple anymore, she likes blue.” he laughs. “I’d rather be a great father and a good soccer player than a great soccer player and a shy father.”

      I ask the brothers what advice they would give to young people entering the league. “Every time I sit down with them at the lunch table, I ask them, ‘What do you like to do?’” says Martellus. “You know what half of them say? ‘I have no idea.'” Because compliance is so deeply ingrained in soccer culture, he says, players never learn to cultivate a sense of self, and they are lost when the sport outpaces them. “When we’re done, we can’t get a job. We don’t know s-. We don’t have interests, we don’t have passions. Soccer is the only thing we’ve ever done in our lives.”

      Miguel nods. “athletes: your whole life you are targeted in a certain way. you don’t know who you are.”

      Of course, it’s also possible that some athletes know who they are but are afraid to reveal themselves to an unforgiving public. In the NFL, talent breeds freedom of expression.

      after a couple of hours, michael gets up to go to the bathroom; he is running late and has to catch a flight back to honolulu. a few minutes later, he returns, a wicked smile on his face. he looks around the restaurant, clearing his throat a bit. “That bathroom is so clean you have to wash your hands before you go in!” he tells martellus, loudly so the tables around us can hear him. A few feet away, Elizabeth Berkley laughs. And with that, the brothers get up and split up, leaving a trail of star-gazed yachtsmen and dazed waiters in their wake.

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