Bennett, who was claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots, said Packers Dr. Patrick McKenzie knew he had a serious shoulder injury and actively tried to pressure him to play.
Bennett claims that he decided to have surgery on the injured shoulder, but McKenzie insisted it wasn’t that bad. Despite the injury, though, Bennett practiced with his new team two days after his release from the Packers and is questionable to play in their game Sunday.
Without mentioning Bennett by his name, various current and former Packers have fired back at him with stories saying McKenzie would never try and risk a player’s health.
Here’s what you need to know about McKenzie and the incident:
1. Bennett Accused McKenzie of Trying to Have Him Play Through Injury
After he was cut from the Packers, Bennett took to Twitter and said he had a story behind his release, promising to tell everyone what transpired “one day.”
The next day, Bennett addressed the story after he was claimed off waivers by the Patriots. He wrote in several Instagram posts on his story that McKenzie and the Packers’ medical staff ignored the severity of a shoulder injury and tried to force him to play.
“The Packers examined my shoulder on my visit March 10 and cleared it,” he wrote. “They even gave me an xray as well. It got worse during the season, specifically against the Cowboys, so I asked to have it checked and we checked it. After a few days of contemplating to play with it or get surgery, I chose surgery. Now here we are.”
Bennett said that McKenzie “tried to f**k” him over and accused him of “trying to cover his own ass.”
“After trying to persuade me to play thru a major injury and me choosing to get surgery,” he wrote. “Dr. McKenzie didn’t make (me) feel safe and was pushing to play, which I thought was weird. Not that he was trying to get me to play thru it, but the way he was saying things. I didn’t trust him. So I got three other opinions from doctors who all said I need to get it fixed. So I decided to do that. And they decided to waive me with some bulls**t excuse. Failure disclose.”
Despite saying he decided to get surgery on his injured shoulder, Bennett passed a physical exam with the Patriots and was on the practice field November 10.
He was officially listed as questionable for the Patriots’ game November 12 against the Denver Broncos.
2. Current & Former Players Defended McKenzie on Social Media
Following Bennett’s allegations against McKenzie and the Packers’ medical staff, numerous Green Bay players — current and former — supported him with social media posts. Many of them referred to McKenzie as a stand-up guy who would never put a player’s health at risk.
“I’ve been working with Dr. McKenzie for 13 years, and as well as being a phenomenal doctor, he’s also become a close friend,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wrote on Instagram. “He’s done surgery on me twice, and I trust him and his opinion implicitly. Doc has always tried to protect me and my future, even if it meant protecting me from myself and my desire to get back on the field before I should.”
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who rarely uses his Twitter account, also backed up McKenzie in a statement.
“In 10 years of being with the Packers organization and having multiple injuries and surgeries, I have never once felt pressured to play a game,” Nelson wrote in the statement. “If anthing, I had to try and convince Dr. McKenzie and the athletic trainers to allow me to practice or play in a game.”
Former tight end Tom Crabtree had similar things to say about McKenzie.
The same applied for former Packers receiver James Jones, fullback John Kuhn, and former offensive lineman T.J. Lang, who now plays for the Detroit Lions, and various others.
McKenzie isn’t able to respond to Bennett’s allegations about his health due to the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
3. McKenzie Was Trained by Dr. James Andrews
McKenzie is considered one of the NFL’s “most respected medical professionals,” according to a 2015 press release by Bellin Health. McKenzie joined the medical group in 2015 as part of Bellin Health Sports Medicine and Orthopedics.
“Dr. McKenzie has provided outstanding orthopedic and sports medicine care to the community for more than two decades as a partner of our health system,” George Kerwin, Bellin Health president and CEO, said in the release. “We’re pleased to advance our longstanding relationship with Dr. McKenzie to continue to enhance our services to the community.”
McKenzie primarily works out of the new Bellin Health sports medicine clinic that’s part of the Packers’ Titletown District.
McKenzie earned his undergraduate degree from St. John’s University and then went to the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he completed his residency at hospitals affiliated with the school. He was trained by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews and completed his fellowship at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. His specialty areas include sports medicine, arthroscopy and ligament reconstruction.
4. McKenzie Was Honored as the NFL’s Top Physician in 2011
McKenzie has been the Packers’ team doctor since the early 1990s and has received numerous awards for his work since then. In 2011, he received the Jerry “Hawk” Rhea Award, which is given to the NFL’s top physician. The award came following the 2010-11 season, when the Packers had the biggest list of players on injured reserve in the league. It was also the same season the Packers won the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Dallas, Texas.
A feature story on Packers.com following the presentation of the award described McKenzie as being “a modest man who doesn’t seek attention for his role.”
“The coolest thing about this is it came from the trainers,” McKenzie said regarding his award. “I got my training from Dr. (James) Andrews, but I always say the athletic training world raised me in sports medicine. Athletic trainers have really revolutionized sports medicine in their common-sense, progressive approach to how we rehab athletes. So, to get the award from those guys is a big honor for me.”
The article specifically stated that McKenzie said he was never pressured by Packers coach Mike McCarthy or other team officials about making decisions that could compromise a player’s long-term health.
“When I have to tell Mike (McCarthy) and (general manager) Ted (Thompson that a player’s season is over), it’s difficult because they’re disappointed and frustrated and it screws up everything they’ve got planned,” McKenzie said. “But it’s not difficult because they’re such class guys. They accept it and move on and deal with it, which is not that way everywhere. Our medical staff is very fortunate that we’ve always had guys like that here.”
5. McKenzie Is Also the Lead Physician at a Nearby College
In addition to serving as the Packer’s team doctor, McKenzie also is the team orthopedic physician for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh‘s football team. The school is located about 50 miles south of Green Bay. He’s also a member of the WIAA Medical Advisory Committee and works to educate future physical trainers at UW-Oshkosh. He’s given various lectures to students in the athletic training program at the school.