It was hard not to feel the power of Michael Bennett's personality during his introductory press conference Monday. From declaring that the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line can be one of the best to ever play the game, to putting the NFC East quarterbacks on notice, he showed that he's not afraid to make a few waves even as he's adjusting to new waters.
He did resist going full cannonball, though, by declining to answer whether he'll continue to protest during the national anthem as he did with the Seattle Seahawks.
"I'm just here to talk about football today, really, just to go out and keep working and doing what I can on and off the field to keep being a great leader," he said. "And I think right now it's mostly about fitting in with this team and finding out what my role is as a player and let everything else happen as it happens."
Bennett clearly didn't see his first meeting with the Philly media as the time and place to dive too deep into the activism realm, but the public conversation will continue before long. Bennett has been one of the more outspoken players in the NFL when it comes to social justice issues. He has been a strong supporter of Colin Kaepernick, who was the first NFL player to demonstrate and is still without a job, and has challenged white players to lend their energy and influence to causes their teammates care about -- a role that defensive end Chris Long took on last season.
With Bennett, safety Malcolm Jenkins and Long all on the same team, a leading voice on social activism just got louder.
Bennett is part of the Players Coalition, which joined into a partnership with the league that calls for an $89 million contribution over seven years to projects dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education. Jenkins is the group's co-leader. The behind-the-scenes work of Jenkins and Bennett connected the two long before they were teammates.
"I talk to Malcolm during the season like once a week just because we were doing so much stuff together, and I know he's a man's man, he's a very honorable person and he believes what he believes in," he said. "And for me to be part of an organization with people like that and a team committed from the top to the bottom is something that I look forward to.
"I think me coming to Philly, it's not just about winning championships on the field, it's about being a champion off the field and being able to work in the community with men and young women all across this city and be able to give back."
Bennett, who has a foundation focused on assisting youth and promoting social equity, pushed back at the notion that he was traded by the Seahawks because of his social justice efforts, pointing to his strong relationship with coach Pete Carroll. He believes it was more about Seattle's desire to go younger and to get value out of some of the aging veteran players while it still could.
He is grateful for landing with another organization and to play for another coach in Doug Pederson who believes in supporting players and allowing their respective personalities to shine through.
"I had the opportunity being in Seattle to study some of the greatest people, some of the greatest philosophers and the greatest people at their job, and the number one thing you hear from everybody when it comes to running a great corporation or being a great leader is to let people develop their character and develop who they are," he said. "And I think that just personifies on and off the field when guys are able to be themselves, they don't have to wear masks; so having a coach that lets you do that is something that helps your game rise because you're not trying to battle with and trying to hide, you're just being who you are. And I think when you have a coach like that, I think you're able to go out and play better and be a better person."