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For Bennett, It's 'Never Personal' vs. Patriots


FRISCO, Texas– If facing the team that traded him last month provides extra motivation, Michael Bennett's not showing it.

Just four weeks after the Cowboys dealt a conditional seventh-round pick to New England for Bennett, the veteran defensive lineman is set to line up against his old Patriots teammates in Sunday's matchup of high-profile franchises.

"It's never personal in the NFL. It's always business," Bennett said Wednesday at The Star. "I'm at the point now where I don't have to prove myself. You go out there, you play as hard as you can, simply not for yourself but for your teammates every single time I go out there.

"It's not really about me. It's really about the guys lined up that are lined up next to me."

Bennett, 34, has indeed established himself as one of the league's more productive defensive players over the last 11 seasons. When Tyrone Crawford needed surgery for a recurring hip injury last month, the Cowboys (6-4) traded for Bennett just days before the league's trade deadline, acquiring another versatile pass rusher who can play any defensive line position.

"Michael has played very well for us," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "Very impactful both in the run game and affecting the quarterback. We've gone against him for a lot of years now. … He's hard to block."

Reunited with his former coach in Seattle, Cowboys passing game coordinator Kris Richard, Bennett has tallied 3.0 sacks in his first three games since the trade. He has also embraced his new teammates, hyping up the entire team in the huddle prior to last Sunday's 35-27 win over the Lions.

Here in Dallas, Bennett sees a young, "hungry" group that's improving as the season wears on.

"We've got a lot of growth," he said. "There's a lot of football that's being played in September and October, but those games are just kind of games. I think November and December is kind of where champions are made."

Sunday presents the Cowboys' biggest challenge yet. The Patriots (9-1) are tied for the league's best record. Statistically, their top-ranked defense has been as good as any in NFL history through 10 games. Their offense is still led by Tom Brady, the most decorated quarterback ever.

"I just think it's important to play very disciplined football against a great team like this," Bennett said. "There's not a lot of teams who can beat you with the way that they execute every single play."

Bennett made his mark in Seattle as a member of the Seahawks' Super Bowl team in 2013. He challenged the Cowboys as part of the Eagles' defensive line in 2018.

Philadelphia traded him to New England in March. He appeared in six games for the Patriots earlier this season, recording 2.5 sacks as a part of their defensive line rotation.

In mid-October, New England reportedly suspended Bennett one game for conduct detrimental to the team. The Cowboys traded for him the following week. But Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was complimentary of Bennett during a conference call with the Dallas-area media this week.

"It was an opportunity to get more play time than what we were able to provide," Belichick said. "He's probably giving the Cowboys what they wanted from him – some inside pass rush production on third downs and passing situations. He's done that throughout his career."

Bennett praised the Patriots organization Wednesday, saying he "learned a lot about football in that situation."

"I learned how to execute at a high level," Bennett said. "I learned what it takes to develop players. I learned what it feels like to break down a game plan from a different perspective."

The Cowboys are glad to have him on their side this week.