Michael Bennett, 11-year NFL veteran, announced his retirement from football on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old defensive end released a statement and graphic on Instagram to announce his decision.
"Retiring feels a little like death of self, but I'm looking forward to the rebirth — the opportunity to reimagine my purpose," Bennett wrote. "I would like to thank my wife and children, who have sacrificed so much for me to succeed. I'm looking forward to supporting them the same way they have me these past 11 years. I have never been more at peace in my life.
"As the great Toni Morrison said: 'Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.'"
Bennett began his NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks, who signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2009, but was waived and picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He stayed with the Bucs for four seasons before signing with the Seahawks in 2013, winning Super Bowl XLVIII in his first season. The Seahawks traded Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, then he went to the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots in 2019.
Bennett’s best season came in 2015, when he recorded a career-high 10 sacks and 52 tackles. He made three straight Pro Bowls from 2015-17.
Bennett spoke with The New Yorker about his decision to retire, and revealed that he was considering it since the end of the past NFL season. It wasn’t until he was sheltering in place with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic that his decision solidified. He wanted to spend more time with his family, and Bennett devote time to helping other athletes speak out on social justice issues. Bennett is one of the more outspoken players in publicly discussing racism and social inequality.
“Not everyone can be a Colin Kaepernick or Maya Moore,” Bennett told Louisa Thomas of The New Yorker. Some athletes, he said, don’t have a natural gift for activism or speaking out, so he wants to help them understand that they “can do small things in their community to make change.”
He hasn’t confirmed exactly what he’ll be doing next, but Bennett is already plenty busy. Beyond spending time with his three daughters, he has a podcast with his wife, Pele, called “Mouthpeace.” He’s also working on developing his book, “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable,” into a TV show.
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