Former Eagles ‘Troublemaker’ Announces NFL Retirement

Michael Bennett

Getty Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett only lasted one season in midnight green but it was a productive one, albeit a somewhat tumultuous one.

Bennett announced his retirement from the NFL after 11 hard-hitting seasons in which he registered 69.5 career sacks and 359 total tackles (132 for loss). The 34-year-old had hinted at hanging up his cleats after his 2019 campaign in Dallas and finally made it official on Tuesday.

Bennett explained why he was retiring in a heartfelt interview with the New Yorker where he credited the COVID-19 pandemic for allowing him to “focus on focus on the essential aspects of life.” Instead, the long-time police reform activist and advocate for racial equality will shift gears and use his celebrity to enact change in the community. It’s something he was already doing on his “Mouthpeace” podcast and for the organization Athletes for Impact.

“Obviously, Black lives matter within the capitalism of the N.F.L.,” Bennett said—the game, quite simply, depends on its players. But what if players demand more Black coaches, and more diversity in front offices and in ownership? Bennett wondered. And why aren’t more white head coaches speaking out about this? “It’s easy for us to talk about philanthropy,” Bennett said, “but hard to talk about humanity. It’s always an uncomfortable conversation.”

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Bennett Left Philly on Uncomfortable Terms

Bennett came to the Eagles with a reputation as a “troublemaker,” a moniker that was a bit unfair to the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end. He enjoyed one of his most successful seasons in 2018 after recording nine sacks — second on the Eagles that year, and the second-highest total of his 11-year career.

The Eagles wanted Bennett to take a pay cut as a way to free up salary-cap space to sign free agents on the offensive side of the ball. He was due $7.2 million in 2019 and thought he deserved a raise. When the talks got contentious, the team decided to move on from Bennett and traded him to New England.

“You’re always caught off guard whenever your name is brought up in the trade blocks,” Bennett told NFL Network at the time. “But I’m not willing to take a pay cut. I actually want a pay raise at this point, and so whatever happens just to know that whatever team I go to I want to get paid more than I get paid right now.”

Never Comfortable Playing in Philadelphia

The hulking defensive end — the guy with the small shoulder pads — never felt comfortable playing in Philadelphia. He admitted as much several times during the 2018 season and his wife, Pele, added some perspective on their joint podcast. It was stressful uplifting their lives and moving their family from the West Coast to the East Coast. Remember, Bennett had spent the previous five years in Seattle.

“When you get traded like that, you are upended. You don’t know what’s happening. And it makes it hard, too, because you don’t get to control your own future,” Bennett said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think I learned a lot in Philly, got a chance to play on another great defense, and I had another great year, so I wasn’t really complaining.”

Bennett was upset with his playing time early on in his lone year in Philly. He was sitting on the bench as the Eagles routinely rotated second-year pass rusher Derek Barnett in crucial situations. That all changed once Barnett was lost for the season with a shoulder injury.

“I think not starting at the beginning of the season is one of the reasons I think I didn’t get a chance to be there,” Bennett told The Inquirer in 2018. “But, at the end of the day … I think it’s one of the best seasons to myself. Because I just feel like there was a lot of adversity, a lot of change to me, and I think I got better as a player.”

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