Former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett was never afraid to speak his mind, so it's no surprise he's being open and honest in retirement as well.
Bennett sent a number of tweets Tuesday night, posting his thoughts on what it takes to be an NFL athlete, or even just a football player. His thoughts originated with a quote-tweet of a story saying Brandon Marshall (Bennett's former teammate) wanted to fight boxer Deontay Wilder.
Bennett made a joke: "Retired 6 time Pro Bowlers can get knocked out too," referencing an ESPN interview he gave several years ago.
From there, Bennett went away from the jokes and opened up on some serious topics. He began by saying, "Honestly football made me such an angry person." He continued by saying football affects everyone who plays it.
"Everything bothered me," Bennett tweeted. "Football is interesting. Psychologically it’s some really dangerous s—. To really play the game of football you have to [have] some f—ed up wiring in your head. It’s chaotic. It takes years and years of brainwashing to go along with a lot of the s—. It starts at peewee. That’s why you gotta watch who is coaching your kids and what they’re teaching them beyond the game.
"We were groomed from a young age to care a little less about humans. If you’re the back up and the man in front of you go down. You kinda get excited but feel bad at the same time. S— [is] crazy."
Bennett says most coaches and players associated with football aren't "good people" in general, but says there "are some good dudes" still.
Most of your favorite players aren’t good people. Hahaha. Like for real for real.— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) February 3, 2021
The former tight end went on to discuss the post-career life of an NFL player.
"Football really f—s up your mental. Integrating back into everyday society after a career continues to be a struggle for a lot of guys. The PTSD. The Identity Crisis. The pain," Bennett tweeted. "The constant reminder of who you used to be by fans and trophies and highlights and family as you’re trying to transition into the new you really slows down the process. Also starting over. Shedding the ego and starting over after you’ve made it to the top is hard. It’s hard to become a nobody after you were a somebody.
"Also guys should also prepare their families for retirement. Life after football. Because everyone is retiring because football is truly family when you’re a player or coach. The other thing that I’ve talked [with] guys [about is] they [are] no longer being a part of the locker room. Understanding that a lot of people weren’t really their friend, it was just the proximity that brought the closeness. Really hurts athletes. After all you’ve been through you would think y’all would be friends forever. You’ve put your body on the line for these dudes. This team. Y’all shower together. Cry together. Been around each other kids. And when you’re no longer on the team that bond can be broken quickly."
Bennett continued by saying post-NFL life can send some players to a "dark place" because it can be tough to handle.
"No longer being 'famous,' some guys need that stardom. Well, they don’t NEED it but they crave it. How could you not. It’s been a drug since childhood. You’ve been a star for forever but how can you shine without the game," he tweeted. "That drives a lot of players into a dark place. Which is fascinating because they wanna shine so badly that they end up in the darkest of places.
"Another thing that be happening is most guys don’t know how to make money. Making money is hard as f—. Once your body breaks down, that money machine is gone. And unfortunately the spare parts in the mind that don’t break are so rusty you get discouraged when trying to use em."
He then starts to wonder whether playing was really worth the tradeoff of all the lasting effects.
"The other thing that happens is questioning if it was all worth it," he said. "When you struggle lifting up your kid. Or your mind doesn’t work right. You go broke you begin questioning if it was all worth it. And more times than not most would say no when truly being honest. A lot of people think I be s—ing on football but that’s not true. I just provide a different perspective on the experience. Athletes experience a lot of physical and mental abuse. It’s a traumatic experience. I believe guys must find a way to deal with the physical and mental trauma after they leave the game.
"It’s a tough balancing act during your career because the trauma is the only thing that pushes you to do it. And the moment you start addressing trauma the foundation that everything you believed in begins to crumble. And you can’t perform on a crumbling foundation. Athletes mask their pain everyday for years to be tough. Do you know how thick that mask becomes after years and years of wearing it? And what type of inner struggle it creates when it comes to communicating the pains you endure after? Most guys/women (this is something all athletes experience) probably think they’re just being a little b— about some stuff and never truly address and it eats at em more and more everyday."
Bennett ended his thread here.
It's certainly an interesting perspective from a former player, and one you don't see often. While it can be hard to think about the realities of post-football life, it's important to shed a light on what former players actually go through. While each experience is different, there's no doubt a level of trauma that players go through when they're done playing.