GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Packers tight end Martellus Bennett plans to give his older brother, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, a hug when he sees him this weekend.
Recent events off the field make the high-profile season opener Sunday between Green Bay and Seattle seem trivial by comparison.
Martellus Bennett, who went to high school in Taylor, Texas, has been working to raise money and supplies for residents of flood-ravaged parts of that state. And this week, Michael Bennett released a statement alleging racially motivated excessive force by the Las Vegas police.
“Sometimes, a hug is the best thing you can give,” Martellus Bennett said as his voice started cracking. He talks to his brother several times a week.
“Two seconds this way, two seconds that way, the whole thing is different,” he added. “So for me, I’ll just be happy to see my brother.”
Once the game kicks off, the Bennett brothers probably won’t have to face each other on the field. But the matchup between Seattle’s tough-as-nails defense and Green Bay’s potent offense should be intriguing.
The Seahawks have added tackle Sheldon Richardson in a trade from the New York Jets to a star-studded defense that also has All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.
Bennett is making his debut for the Packers, the latest inviting target for two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The game could be much more competitive than the teams’ last meeting in December, when Thomas missed the 38-10 loss to Green Bay in December because of a broken leg.
“You remember the score? Because I don’t,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “I just think watching the film you’ve got to make the corrections, understand what worked for them, and you’ve got to understand they might try and do that again.”
Other notes and things to watch ahead of Sunday’s game:
EARL IS BACK: Thomas appears to be fully recovered from the injury that sidelined him late last season. The free safety is such a key cog in Seattle because of an ability to cover so much ground in the defensive backfield. The 66-yard touchdown pass that Packers receiver Davante Adams had last year against Seattle might not have occurred if Thomas was on the field.
“Absolutely, that’s a big difference,” Packers wideout Jordy Nelson said. “He’s smart the way he can read things. The ground that he can cover makes a big difference for what they do in the back end.”
READING RODGERS: Few quarterbacks are better than Rodgers at sensing pressure in the pocket. Throw in the solid protection Rodgers receives from his starting offensive line, along with his knack for maneuvering out of trouble, and the Seahawks will be hard-pressed to get to the quarterback, even with all their talent on defense.
“He might even laugh at you after he throws a bomb after you miss a sack. He’s definitely pretty calm back there. Those are the guys you get frustrated with,” Avril said.
SPLITTING CARRIES: Seattle would like to see Thomas Rawls be the primary ball carrier and Eddie Lacy as a complement. But Rawls is still trying to get fully healthy after being slowed late in the preseason by a high-ankle injury, meaning Lacy could be the No. 1 back in his return to Green Bay. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he would be fine with that scenario and said Lacy can handle 20 to 25 carries in a game.
“He’s had a great run with us getting to this point. He’s done everything we have asked of him, for weeks and weeks now,” Carroll said.
REPLACING LACY: Taking Lacy’s place in the Packers’ backfield is Ty Montgomery, the converted receiver going into his first full season as a running back. The running game got off to a slow start in the preseason, but picked up toward the end of August. The Packers also like the potential Montgomery’s rookie backups, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, showed in the preseason.
Montgomery’s pass-catching ability presents a matchup problem for defenses.
“Ty Montgomery is our starting running back, so his development is over. It’s time to go win games,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Michael Bennett has been a leader of the national anthem protests started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Asked if he would sit for the anthem before this week’s game, Martellus Bennett said, “Not at this point. I’m just processing everything. Me, I like to speak through my art. My words and things like that.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this story.
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