Reimer: Dubious police charges against Michael Bennett shouldn't cloud Belichick's latest masterstroke

Alex Reimer
March 11, 2019 - 12:10 pm

The Patriots’ reported acquisition of Michael Bennett is another Bill Belichick masterstroke. One of the best pass-rushers in football was available for a measly fifth-round pick, and best of all, he provides insurance in case Trey Flowers departs for greener financial pastures this week. 

But unlike other Belichick coups, this move has been met with some mixed reviews. Our own Gerry Callahan called Bennett a “terrible guy” on Twitter and offered tempered praise of the deal on Monday. Even Glenn Ordway, the ultimate Belichick toady, said on Friday’s OMF the Patriots could cut Bennett during training camp.

The seeming animus towards Bennett must be about more than football, because on the field, he’s a beast. Just two players, Von Miller and Khalil Mack, have totaled more pressures than Bennett over the last five years. The only negative is Bennett publicly voiced his desire for a pay raise last week, which is probably why the Eagles traded him. But the Patriots boast roughly $20 million in cap space, and besides, maybe Bennett’s request was specific to his situation in Philadelphia.

While Bennett has established himself as a premier defensive player, he’s also become one of the NFL’s most outspoken stars. The co-author of “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable” sits during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and once called out the league’s white quarterbacks for not vocally siding with their black teammates on certain social issues. 

“Could you imagine if Tom Brady was to say what happened to Philando Castile was a tragedy?,” Bennett once told the Undefeated. “How would that change America if Aaron Rodgers was to say, ‘Black lives do matter’?”

Bennett also acts on his words. The Bennett Foundation, which he founded with his wife, provides care and resources for underprivileged children across the country. 

But as Colin Kaepernick’s pig socks can attest, critics of vociferous black athletes often look to pounce on any misstep. Bennett provided the perfect fodder in August 2017, when he accused Las Vegas police of using excessive force on him during a reported active shooter situation. He darted across the casino floor when cops entered the building, prompting officers to chase him down. According to Bennett, an officer then placed a gun near his head and vowed to “blow his f— head off” if he moved. 

Vegas police denied the depiction of events and released video that seemingly contradicts Bennett’s recollection. The problem is, the video doesn’t show the takedown, since the wasn’t wearing a body camera. So we don’t see the moments in question. We just have to take the police at their word.

That’s something many Boston sports media figures have been unwilling to do in regards to Robert Kraft’s misdemeanor case about soliciting prostitutes. Though Florida authorities insist Kraft’s day spa of choice was part of an international human trafficking operation, folks like Callahan and Ordway dispute their claims, pointing to the lack of human trafficking arrests so far.

But for whatever reason, Bennett isn’t granted the same benefit of the doubt, even though he especially deserves it when it comes to his arrest for allegedly barreling over an elderly paraplegic worker in the immediate aftermath of Super Bowl LI. Houston police say Bennett, who was running onto the field to celebrate his brother Martellus’ win, pushed over the frail 66-year-old woman on his way. In March 2018, a scant 14 months after the alleged incident, police finally issued their arrest warrant for Bennett. 

“You are morally corrupt when you put your hands on a little old lady in a little wheelchair,” said police chief Art Acevedo when he announced the charges. “That is morally corrupt. I mean morally bankrupt. He is morally bankrupt.”

Those strong words from the police chief indicate there might be some motivation behind the belated charges. Certainly, the case is beyond flimsy. Though an officer witnessed Bennett’s alleged heinous attack, the defensive end wasn’t arrested that night. Police didn’t even start investigating the incident until eight months after the fact, as details in its comprehensive breakdown of the dubious charges.

Even stranger, there’s no video of the incident, despite the fact that cameras are everywhere at the Super Bowl. Bennett was also never interviewed during the course of the investigation, with Acevedo saying he was difficult to connect with. In other words, the Houston police department claims it couldn’t track down its very public suspect in a heinous assault case. Bennett, by the way, played in Dallas against the Cowboys in December 2017. 

Even Barney Fife would laugh at the incompetence. 

Bennett is due in court on March 27 –– one day before Kraft’s scheduled arrangement in Florida –– so we'll ee what happens in two weeks. The court date has already been delayed six times, perhaps pointing to the lack of substance behind the charges.

The one legitimate gripe against Bennett is his penchant for the occasional dirty hit, such as when he charged at Rob Gronkowski at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. But then you remember Rodney Harrison became a beloved Patriot, so it would be hypocritical to hold that against Bennett. 

Belichick made the right call picking up Bennett on the cheap. It was a classic Patriots move, and the last time New England picked up a Bennett brother, it worked out OK. In fact, Martellus Bennett is now reportedly thinking about coming out of retirement and joining his brother in Foxboro. That is a 2-for-1 special that puts any “Happy Hour” offer to shame.