Michael Bennett was already making plans for life after football when he got a call from the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday.
The rookie free agent from the University of Georgia flew to Cincinnati, worked out for the team Tuesday and signed a contract Wednesday morning.
“It was good news to hear, especially coming off an ACL injury last year,” Bennett said, referring to the injury he suffered in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30.
“I had another job lined up and everything,” Bennett added. “I thought football might be over for me, or at least wait until next year.”
What type of job?
“Financial manager or financial planner, some crap like that,” he said. “I was not excited about it.”
But the 6-foot-3, 202-pound receiver is excited about his opportunity with a Bengals team that has an open competition for the final two or three spots at the position.
“My goal is just make the team, really,” he said. “I think I have the talent to do that, to make the 53. It’s my first day, so I’ve got to make an impression somehow, learn the playbook as soon as possible and show what I can do in the preseason games.”
Bennett led Georgia with 37 catches as a senior, and his 404 yards and four touchdowns were seccond highest on the team. He finished his college career with 134 receptions for 1,607 yards and 17 TDs.
Prior to tearing his left ACL in the bowl game, he tore his right ACL in practice his sophomore year. He said he’s been a quick healer both times.
“Actually it’s the perception that it takes 9 to 12 months, but really at six months the graft is totally healed and you’re good to go,” Bennett said. “It’s really up to the athlete at that point. I have some good genes and really felt my knee was back to normal pretty quick.
“I feel good, feel 100 percent and showed it (Tuesday),” he added.
Bennett joins a Bengals receiving corps that is led by former Georgia teammate A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
The team typically keeps six receivers on the 53-man roster, which means Bennett will be battling veterans Brandon Tate, Greg Little, Denarius Moore, Tevin Reese and Onterrio McCalebb, along with rookies Mario Alford and Desmond Lawrence for the final three spots.
“It’s an open position,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “There’s a lot of opportunity out here to win jobs and continue to compete for playing time. These next three weeks are important as far as playing in preseason games and putting good, quality snaps on tape and plays in practice to earn that opportunity.”
To make room for Bennett on the roster, the Bengals waived tight end Jake Murphy, who was on the team’s practice squad last season.