In his 10 seasons in the NFL, Michael Bennett has climbed from an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Pro Bowl level performer with the Seattle Seahawks to a big-name acquisition for the Philadelphia Eagles. And every step of the way, the colorful defensive end has done things his way.
From celebrations to a long list of funny quotes during his chats with the media, Bennett hasn’t been one who tries to blend in. And his laughably small shoulder pads are no different.
The 6’4, 271-pound defensive lineman prefers pads meant for a kicker:
The pads certainly look smaller than ever — and even draw laughs from the announcers from time to time — but Bennett told SB Nation in 2017 that things aren’t any different. He says he has preferred tiny shoulder pads for the last “five or six years,” even if people are just now taking notice.
“I think it’s cause my shoulders look a little bit bigger, I guess,” Bennett said.
The trend to smaller pads isn’t unique to Bennett and has been gradual across the NFL over the past decades. In 2014, the New York Times reported that shoulder pads have trimmed down by as much as 15 percent over the past 10 to 15 years.
“I think that’s what the league has moved to — guys want smaller pads,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton told the New York Times. “Some guys don’t even want to wear them. ... The game is more about speed now and making plays.”
For Bennett, there’s added flexibility and perhaps speed that comes with the trimmer pads. But he says that the biggest advantage is that it forces him to stick to his fundamentals.
“I just like the smaller ones because it makes sure I use my hands and makes it so I can stretch my arms out all of the way,” Bennett said. “It helps pass rushers, but I don’t think it really matters too much because I know how to use my hands. It makes me make sure I use my hands and not throw my shoulder in there.”
The obvious drawback would seemingly be injuries, but Bennett says neither he nor coaches are worried about that at all. And the Seahawks certainly never seemed concerned, awarding Bennett with a three-year extension worth $31.5 million that was due to keep him in Seattle through the 2020 season. He was later traded to the Eagles where he restructured his deal to get a $1.725 million signing bonus and a potential $4 million in incentives.
The injury that kept Bennett out of the lineup for a while in 2016 was a knee problem, but the pass rusher entered the postseason healthy and ready to fully contribute. He knows how to rein in funny dancing during a playoff run, though.
“You don’t want to get no fines,” Bennett said. “You get a sack, you get back up. You don’t want to give up no yards — ticky tack or nothing like that. It’s all about getting those yards if you want to win.”
Bennett earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons, so whatever he’s doing is working.