By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Veteran tight end Martellus Bennett had an up-and-down 2017 season — to say the least. He publicly contemplated retirement, fought with the Packers over what he deemed unfair medical treatment, got picked up off waivers by his former team in New England, then suffered a season-ending injury after playing just two games with the Patriots.
And since he was placed on injured reserve at the end of November, not much at all has been heard from Bennett. Until now.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the tight end does in fact want to play in 2018.
When the Patriots picked up Bennett off waivers, they did so knowing the player was signed through the 2019 season. But the contract allows for the Patriots to release Bennett for the 2018 league year officially begins in March.
A decision on Bennett will likely depend on some clarity from tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the hours prior to kickoff of Super Bowl LII, Pro Football Talk reported that Gronkowski was at least contemplating the idea of retiring. Gronkowski said after the game that he’d have to think about such things, and reports have since surfaced that he may be considering a career change to Hollywood or professional wrestling.
The Patriots would probably not mind entering the season with both Gronkowski and Bennett on the roster; they did that in 2016 and having Bennett as “Gronk Insurance” was a major reason why they won the Super Bowl. But if Gronkowski is indeed ready to walk away from football, then the Patriots would actually need Bennett in 2018.
Bennett caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns in the 2016 regular season for the Patriots, before catching 11 passes for 98 yards in three postseason games. He also drew a pass interference penalty in overtime of Super Bowl LI to set the Patriots up for the game-winning touchdown run.
He left as a free agent after the Super Bowl, but he caught just 24 passes for 233 yards and zero touchdowns in seven games for Green Bay. After rejoining the Patriots, he caught six passes for 53 yards, but a hamstring injury — in addition to the shoulder injury he was already playing through — led to his placement on injured reserve.
In his nine-year NFL career with the Cowboys, Giants, Bears, Patriots and Packers, Bennett has caught 433 passes for 4,573 yards and 30 touchdowns in 144 games.