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Originally published Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 2:23 PM

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Undrafted Michael Bennett showing size isn't everything on Seahawks' defensive line

The team had to cut its roster to 75 players on Tuesday, will have to trim the roster to 53 on Saturday

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — Michael Bennett packed a couple bags of clothes, an X Box and a whole lot of hope for Seattle's training camp.

No car. At least not yet. He relies on the shuttle at the hotel where he's staying for transportation as he tries to play his way to a more permanent job with the Seahawks.

The rookie defensive lineman from Texas A&M is trying to take the disappointment of going unchosen in April's draft and turn it into one of the 53 spots Seattle has on its regular-season roster.

"This is probably the greatest opportunity to make the most of what I got," Bennett said.

He'll have one more chance during Seattle's final exhibition game tomorrow, the last opportunity for those players chasing the final couple spots on the Seahawks' roster.

Rookie Nick Reed is pushing to be Seattle's fifth defensive end while Joe Newton's trying to hold as the No. 3 tight end. Bennett's role isn't as clear cut. He played left defensive end in college, and that's where he lined up when he first came to Seattle, but the Seahawks are giving him the chance to play defensive tackle and go up against opposing guards.

"He's an explosive guy," coach Jim Mora said.

At 274 pounds, Bennett is undersized as a tackle, but defensive-line coach Dan Quinn believes Bennett's quick first step could neutralize the disadvantages he'll face against bigger blockers.

"Kind of like a boxer beating a guy to the punch," Quinn said.

Bennett's younger brother, Martellus, is already in the NFL, a tight end entering his second season with the Dallas Cowboys. Michael, 23, expected to be drafted this year, perhaps as high as the fourth round, and said teams told him he'd be chosen with the next pick. That only compounded the disappointment when he went undrafted.

He signed with the Seahawks as a free agent, coming back to the state where he once lived. His father was in the Navy and the family lived in Bremerton for about 5 years when Bennett was younger.

It didn't take long for the Seahawks to see possibilities in Bennett. By the end of the first rookie minicamp in May, coaches wanted to take a look at him as a three-technique tackle — where he lines up across from the outside shoulder of the opposing guard.

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Bennett said he was a little skeptical at first.

"I think I'm kind of small," he said.

But size isn't everything, and Quinn told him getting experience playing on the inside of the line would only help him.

"If you're a guy that plays two positions, you'll do more for a club," Quinn said.

In Bennett, Seattle sees someone who can play end on first and second down, and slide inside to tackle on third down to provide another pass rusher.

Bennett entered Saturday's exhibition game in the first half, lining up at defensive tackle while Kansas City's starters were still in the game. That Bennett was even on the field in the first half of the Seahawks' most important exhibition game showed not only how far he has progressed, but that Seattle is interested in seeing just how far his career may go.

Bumpus cut

Seattle released wide receiver Michael Bumpus of Washington State to complete its first round of roster cuts. Bumpus played in four games as an undrafted rookie last season, starting one. He caught five passes, including one for a touchdown, but was pushed down the depth chart by the offseason additions of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deon Butler, and the recovery of Nate Burleson and Deion Branch from injuries.

Seattle now has 75 players on the roster. The next round of cuts will come on Saturday when teams must pare the rosters to 53 players for the start of the regular season. Seattle's first game is Sept. 13 against St. Louis.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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