Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers are what remains of the Green Bay Packers’ tight end group … if you can call two players a group.
They not only were left to try to salvage the position but also answer questions about their former teammate, Martellus Bennett, whose bizarre saga with the Packers took another turn when he was claimed off waivers by the Patriots on Thursday.
Kendricks, who grew close to Bennett in part because the two free agents both arrived this offseason, said he has been in touch with his former teammate.
Rodgers took more of the don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out approach.
“I think we know where we’re trying to go,” Rodgers said. “If someone is not on that boat, it’s better that they’re not here. We’re looking to move on. We know our ultimate goal. We have to continue to execute on offense.”
Neither Rodgers nor anyone else would say for certain that they believed Bennett tried to force his way out of Green Bay after the Packers’ season took a turn for the worse following Aaron Rodgers’ injury.
“I don’t know if that was his plan,” Richard Rodgers said. “I don’t know if that was his intention. But it doesn’t matter to me.”
The fourth-year tight end admitted he did not get to know Bennett well.
“We weren’t around each other for very long,” Richard Rodgers said. “We’re in here working together, but that’s pretty much it.”
Still, no one was quite sure what happened, either. All they know is after their quarterback broke his collarbone, Bennett went home for the bye and posted on social media saying he was “pretty sure” this would be his final season. He then came back to Green Bay for the first practice after the week off and the next day showed up with a shoulder injury.
“I don’t know what happened,” Kendricks said. “I can say he’s the biggest team player. I’m not sure what the disconnect might be.”
Bennett, 30, never addressed the retirement talk in detail. He offered only a one-word explanation when asked what led him to that decision: “Life.” But there were those around the Packers who didn’t think Bennett was serious about quitting, saying it was just “Marty being Marty.”
Bennett, normally outspoken on social media, wrote a couple of posts after the Patriots claimed him. One tweet said: “I’ll tell y’all everything one day, but wow.”
Unless the Packers (4-4) add a tight end before Sunday’s visit to the Chicago Bears, it will be a two-man crew for the second consecutive game. With Bennett out of Monday night’s loss to the Lions, Rodgers played 33 snaps and Kendricks 29.
Rodgers caught one pass for 5 yards, while Kendricks had two for 32 yards. Bennett’s totals through seven games weren’t impressive — 24 catches for 233 yards without a touchdown and a team-high four dropped passes — but he played a significant role as a blocker in the run game. Neither Rodgers nor Bennett has shown himself to be Bennett’s equal as a blocker.
There’s one tight end on the practice squad, Emanuel Byrd. He was with the Packers for part of training camp but didn’t rejoin them until last week. Bennett’s roster spot remains open, so perhaps Byrd will get promoted. They also will have another roster spot when right tackle Bryan Bulaga inevitably goes on injured reserve after his season-ending knee injury.
But it’s also possible the Packers will just go with Rodgers and Kendricks for another week.
“We have two guys in that room that they’re veteran guys, they’re very experienced, they’re versatile guys as well,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “So we think the men in that room can certainly get the job done.”