GREEN BAY — The strange story of tight end Martellus Bennett’s departure from the Green Bay Packers is devolving into an ugly game of he said, she said.
Bennett’s saga took another twist Friday morning when he took the field for his new employer, the New England Patriots, who claimed Bennett on waivers 24 hours after the Packers released him for failure to disclose a medical condition. Photos of Bennett wearing a No. 88 jersey and going through warmups made the rounds on social media as folks in Green Bay scratched their heads over a confusing divorce.
“I’m not going to get into the Patriots claiming Marty,” coach Mike McCarthy said at his Friday news conference.
Bennett later took to Instagram to claim that the Packers were aware of his worsening shoulder injury but tried to get him to keep playing.
"This was all about money," said Bennett in the post, referring to the Packers' decision to release him with a failure to disclose injury designation.
Bennett also implied that team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie encouraged him to play with the injury, a charge that spurred current and former Packers to come to McKenzie's defense, most notably quarterback Aaron Rodgers in an Instagram post:
From the Packers’ point of view, the events of Bennett's departure unfolded as follows: Bennett took part in a non-padded practice last Tuesday and afterward expressed concern over a shoulder injury. McCarthy said he encouraged Bennett to seek additional opinions, which Bennett did as he missed the final three practices of the week and did not play against the Detroit Lions on Monday night. Two days later, the Packers released him for failing to disclose a shoulder injury. The Patriots claimed Bennett on waivers a day later.
Bennett’s injury is a torn rotator cuff, according to a league source, but details about when the injury occurred remain fuzzy. The fact that Bennett practiced for the Patriots indicates he passed his physical in New England.
Podcast: Fallout from Martellus Bennett saga
“The last medical conversation I was involved with in regards to Marty, they were talking about scheduling surgery,” McCarthy said. “After that, then you have the termination and then the claim. I really don’t have any comments on that. I’ve answered the question for the last time respectfully.”
What felt like the end of a soap opera acted as a trigger for Bennett, who on Friday afternoon posted an expletive-filled diatribe sharing his side of the situation.
Here is the unedited text of Bennett’s message:
“The packers examined my shoulder on my visit March 10 and cleared it. They even gave me an xray as well. It got worse during the season, specifically against the Cowboys so I asked to have it checked out and we checked it. After a few days of contemplating to play with it or get surgery, I chose surgery. Now here we are …
“They tried to f--- me over. Dr. McKenzie trying to cover his own a--. After trying to persuade me to play thru a major injury and choosing to get surgery.
“They have access to all my medical records. My shoulder wasn’t where it is now at the beginning of the season. I f----- it up playing for the @packers.
“Dr. McKenzie didn’t make (me) feel safe and was pushing to play, which I thought was weird. Not that he was trying to get me to play thru it but the way he was saying things. I didn’t trust him. So I got 3 other opinions from doctors who all said I need to get it fixed. So I decided to do that. And they decided to waive me with some bull---- excuse. Failure (to) disclose.
“Every week we do a body evaluation sheet in the weight room and pretty much every week I circled my shoulder. I just kept playing but it got worse.
“During the bye week I got off anti inflammatories to clean my system and could really feel the pain. So I asked to examine it first day back in. And that’s when we found out it was really f----- up.
“They panicked. Thinking that I was trying to go on IR and be on their books next year. When I mentioned that I would possible retire. So they tried to f--- me before they thought I would f--- them. This was all about money.
“All about money. I get it. But don’t lie homie. You knew wtf was up.
“I had intentions of playing all 8 games as I mentioned in the post during the bye week, but found out it was worse than I felt after getting it checked out.
“Now I’m like f--- it.
“I chose my health over the ‘team’. They chose money over me.”
The Packers didn't comment on Bennett's post but current and former players voiced support for McKenzie, who has worked with the team since 1991.
"In 10 years of being with the Packers organization and having multiple injuries and surgeries, I have never once felt pressured to play in a game," receiver Jordy Nelson tweeted. "If anything, I have had to try and convince Dr. McKenzie and the athletic trainers to allow me to practice or play in a game. Dr. McKenzie is very cautious about putting players back on the field with an injury and always puts the player’s health before the team.”
Former Packers safety LeRoy Butler tweeted about how McKenzie helped him deal with a spinal condition: "I was born with the narrow of my spinal cord. I played hundreds of plays and Dr. McKenzie flew me out to see a specialist. He was very conservative because he cared about me as a person. I am offended that someone would say he made them play injured."
Former Packers receiver James Jones chimed in, tweeting “100% true Dr. McKenzie will not let you play with a broken fingernail if you don’t convince him that you’re OK. I can never see him forcing somebody to play with an injury.”
Jermichael Finley, whose career as a Packers starting tight end was cut short by a spinal-cord injury, tweeted, "I felt like the Packers and Dr. McKenzie were always very cautious with us and cared for the players well-being. Never felt pressured to play through a serious injury."
And from former Packers fullback John Kuhn: “In 9 years of working with Doc McKenzie he never pressured me to play one time. In fact, I would argue that I pressured him to let me play at times.”