Yes, Michael Bennett's odd-looking shoulder pads are abnormally small for a reason. The defensive end who now plays for the Cowboys after being traded by the Patriots earlier this season has explained on multiple occasions why he wears shoulder pads that appear designed for a player roughly 100 pounds lighter.
Bennett is 6-4, 275 pounds. Yet he wears custom-made shoulder pads that resemble equipment a kicker would wear. The reasons, the 34-year-old has said, vary from range of motion to weight to speed.
Bennett has been wearing kicker-like shoulder pads since his days with the Seahawks. Now in his 11th NFL season, the tiny pads have followed the three-time Pro Bowler through his time in Philadelphia last year and New England earlier this year. On Sunday, Bennett and his small shoulder pads will face the team from which he asked to be traded in October.
Bennett at this point in his career is a rotational defensive lineman for the Cowboys, but he remains an effective player, as his three sacks through three games in Dallas prove. He might argue that has something to do with his unique equipment.
Why are Michael Bennett's shoulder pads so small?
Bennett on multiple occasions has explained why he wears custom, kicker-like shoulder pads as a defensive end. His answers to questions about his pads, though, have varied.
Below are some of the most recent examples.
Speaking with Patriots media earlier this year, via NESN: "They’re like kicker shoulder pads. They’re like D-line/kicker with the way how small they are. But I’ve been using them for a while. I like them because they’re lighter. You can move your shoulder faster. It's harder for a lineman to grab you. People hate that because when they try to grab that extra pad right there when you turn your shoulder, they just miss. It’s just skin as you’re going past them. That’s why I like wearing them. They always complain about it. They hate it.
"I actually copied Osi (Umenyiora) and John Abraham. Those are my two favorite players, defensive linemen. Osi and John Abraham. I used to love the way John Abraham rushed and then how Osi used to use his hands. ... I copied Justin Smith a little bit too. So, I copied what he did with his (pads) and tried to make mine like his. So, it was Justin, John and Osi. Those are the three guys I liked. I just liked the way they used their pads, so I tried to make mine something close to theirs."
Added Bennett on loosening his jersey sleeves: "I hate that it has you restricted. I don’t like anything that makes you feel restricted. Sometimes when your jersey is so tight you can’t raise your arm. I like that my jersey’s down here, and I can raise my arm and feel free."
Speaking with The New York Times in 2018: "Small pads make me a better pass rusher. I’ve got complete range of motion and I use my hands more instead of just throwing my shoulder into someone. I engage with an offensive lineman the right way — with outstretched arms."
Speaking with SB Nation in 2017: “I just like the smaller ones because it makes sure I use my hands and makes it so I can stretch my arms out all of the way. It helps pass rushers, but I don’t think it really matters too much because I know how to use my hands. It makes me make sure I use my hands and not throw my shoulder in there."
Michael Bennett shoulder pads through the years
2019 (Patriots and Cowboys)