One of the main reasons the Giants were able to bounce back from their late-season four-game losing streak in 2011—a month-long spell of disappointment that appeared as if it would kill Big Blue’s playoff hopes—was their no-nonsense attitude in the locker room, their ability to ignore meaningless distractions and focus on the task at hand.
There were several roadblocks which could have fractured the Giants’ locker room unity last season, including Osi’s training camp holdout, Antrelle Rolle’s unhappiness over having to play cornerback and reported desire to leave New York, and the constant talks of Tom Coughlin status on the hot seat.
Ironically, Coughlin’s old-school approach and leadership from guys like Justin Tuck and—even more astonishing—Rolle was the perfect formula for the Giants’ late-season, six-game run en route to a SuperBowl title.
Because that locker room cohesion was such a vital part of their success last season, it got me wondering: how will recent free agent signee Martellus Bennett fit in?
The pass-catching tight end is 6-6, 270-lbs and has enough athleticism to make plays down field. He’s also an above-average blocker, which will serve to fortify the Giants’ run game. The former Cowboy will be an asset on the field, but what he does off of it is where I have some concerns.
Bennett and his brother Michael—currently a defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—posted a rap video on YouTube in July 2009 titled, “Black Olympics.” It has since been removed.
The video shows the two brothers competing in various eating contests, including watermelon, Chicken and Kool-Aid. The bit was an obvious reference to African-American stereotypes, and it created a firestorm of controversy—namely, claims that the video was racist.
Bennett spoke with Dallas sports radio host and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin about the controversial video.
“I don’t really think it’s offensive,” Bennett told Irvin. “It depends on your sense of humor and how you look at things. We were just having fun and it was very funny for me and my brothers, when I look at it I just can’t stop laughing. If someone takes offense, I apologize. That wasn’t my intention. It was just us having fun.”
The “Black Olympics” represents just one of several off-field missteps taken by the former Cowboy. He was fined $22,000 by the NFL earlier that year for posting another video in which he used derogatory language towards blacks and gays and—responding to a question at the NFL combine regarding his interest in both basketball and football—said, “Football is my wife and basketball is my mistress.”
I don’t see Bennett being a problem in the locker room, especially when you consider the fact that he’s been a non-issue for the past couple of years.
Throughout his four-year career, he’s played second fiddle to Jason Whitten, and that hasn’t seemed to bother him. So even if the Giants draft Stanford’s Coby Fleener with their first pick and continue to use Jake Ballard/Travis Beckum as receiving targets, Bennett shouldn’t have any gripes about that.
But, there is always the possibility that his character issues could resurface. Just something to keep in mind.