More than a week removed from Martellus Bennett's questionable departure from Green Bay, his exit has had a serious effect on his former teammates.
"At the end of the day you have to think of it as a business. Me, personally? I thought he quit on us," Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix told the Wisconsin State Journal of the now-Patriots tight end. "I don't fault him, but I did think he quit on us. He let us down -- as a teammate. For a guy that came in, of his caliber, his leadership quote-unquote, I expected more from him. I held him to a higher standard, me personally. But he handled it the way he wanted to handle it.
"I honestly think winning on Sunday gave us a motivation to go out every week [going forward] and compete. That was the hump we needed to get over -- winning a game, first and foremost. That Marty stuff, I'm glad we got it out of the way. It's time to move on."
Bennett was waived with an injury designation by Green Bay last week and intended to undergo season-ending surgery on his shoulder. However, the tight end was picked up on waivers by the Patriots and then started for New England that Sunday after being listed as questionable. As of now, Bennett no longer intends to have surgery and will play with the Pats, with whom he won a Super Bowl last year, going forward.
It was bad enough that Bennett seemingly exaggerated an injury to leave a bad situation in Green Bay -- with Aaron Rodgers out for the season, the Packers are not the championship contenders Bennett joined in the offseason. But the tight end made things more contentious when, after leaving Green Bay, he criticized the team doctor for trying to make him play through the injury despite the advice of other doctors. The Packers intend to go after Bennett's $6.3 million signing bonus, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, as rules allow a team to battle for the signing bonus if a player had a pre-existing condition before a signing.
"I got criticism from all from my former organization," Bennett told reporters Sunday night of the Packers. "[Expletive] at this point I am rubber and you are glue. Anything you say bounces off me and sticks to you. So, at this point, there is nothing anyone else can say to me in my career to make me feel anyway towards myself.
Packers players might not like how the veteran tight end left the organization, but they suggest that Bennett's apparent spurning of the team could bring the playoff-hungry Pack (5-4) closer together.
"I think it definitely has the power to galvanize a locker room. Because it shows you -- especially going through difficult times -- it shows you who's in and who isn't," All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We'll obviously discover that more and more as the season goes on dealing with our starting quarterback being hurt and having a few losses.
"But you're absolutely right: It brings guys together, like a refocus. It lets you know, 'All right, get rid of the dead weight, and let's focus on our locker room.'"