Thankfully, that should all change this year with preseason back on schedule for 2021.
After spending three years in Atlanta between the practice squad and injured reserve, Benkert was released this offseason but soon found a new home in Green Bay with the Packers.
After making the active roster just once last season with the Falcons, Benkert has a goal to make the team in Week 1 with Green Bay. However, while he has been training hard this offseason, he’s learned that there’s still a chance he will get overlooked.
In a recent interview with Tyler Dunne of Go Long, Benkert opened up about his struggles in the NFL, specifically his time in Atlanta under former head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
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Benkert Went Undrafted in 2018
Benkert went undrafted in 2018 splitting his collegiate career playing for East Carolina and Virginia.
He spent his rookie year on the practice squad and looked very promising during a 2019 preseason matchup against the Broncos where he outplayed Drew Lock before landing on the injured reserve list.
He returned in 2020 ready to prove himself and he really thought he had a shot to make the final roster following an outstanding offseason at camp:
“I’ve worked my ass off. When it comes down to it, I work really hard in football and give it everything I have and am always prepared. I think last year with Covid really opened my eyes. I had the best camp I could possibly have. I was balling. Making plays. I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell they cut me and put me on the practice squad.’ I was like, ‘I can’t be cut. There’s no way.’ And I go into the meeting with the GM and he’s like, ‘You did everything we asked you to do. You could not have played better. We’re lucky we don’t have a preseason because we can hide you and stash you on the practice squad.’ I was like, ‘S—. OK.’ That’s the reality of the business. That was a tough pill to swallow but, at the same time, it gave me so much freedom and took such a weight off my shoulders, that I can control everything I can and they still can’t keep me on the team. That’s just part of being an undrafted guy. Until you step a foot on the field in the game, and people have to see it, they’re not worried about somebody stealing you.”
Benkert confirmed Dimitroff was the one who delivered the news in such a disheartening way, which opened up his eyes forever. However, a simple text from one of the best players in the business kept his head above water:
“They did look after me in different ways and stuff. That was a tough reality of the business for me. As soon as I got cut, before you’re put on practice squad, you have 24 hours. You’re not allowed in the building. You’re not allowed to have your playbook. You’re a free agent for a day. The first text I got within 20 minutes was Julio (Jones). It’s cool to see guys like that recognize how I played—behind the scenes—that nobody would really know. They make it a little easier to swallow to say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. When you get your chance, you’ll be fine. But they have the leverage right now.’ That was a good Welcome to the NFL moment three years in. I’ll definitely remember that one.”
Benkert added that Jones told him via text, “Don’t let them change how you play your game. You’re doing well. It will work out when you get your opportunity.”
Benkert Gets a Fresh Start in Green Bay
Benkert, 25, was one of three players and two quarterbacks to try out for the Packers during the team’s rookie minicamp. He beat out 2017 seventh-round pick Chad Kelly for the final spot on Green Bay’s 90-man offseason roster.
He never really got to showcase his talent in Atlanta after a season-ending injury in 2019 and no preseason due to COVID-19 in 2020.
A fresh start in Green Bay should be good for him and the fans seem to already be enjoying the entertainment he brings.
If Benkert can make the Packers roster this offseason, he will likely be on the practice squad as Green Bay currently has Aaron Rodgers, 2020 first-rounder Jordan Love along with new signee Blake Bortles under contract.
However, Rodgers’ future with the team still remains up in the air.
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