Publish date:

Ex-Viking Michael Bennett opens up on trauma, depression, and suicide

The former Pro Bowler is speaking out about his traumatic upbringing and living with depression.
Author:

To say life after football has been challenging for former Minnesota Vikings running back Michael Bennett would be an understatement.

Bennett, who pleaded no contest to felony burglary and identity theft charges in 2017, has been opening up about personal struggles that have followed him since he was a boy growing up in Wisconsin. 

Bennett was a guest on the Minnesota-based Twist podcast on Saturday, during which the former 2001 first-round pick said he continues to struggle with anxiety and depression that he believes are linked not only to learning how to live after football, but a difficult childhood growing up in Wisconsin. 

Bennett went to the Pro Bowl in his second NFL season after leading the Vikings with 1,296 rushing yards, but the injury bug limited his production the next three seasons and he eventually bounced around the league until 2010 while playing for the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Chargers and Raiders. 

It was in Oakland when Bennett says he was struggling to the point that he held a gun to his head contemplating suicide. Bennett's uninterrupted words, as said on the podcast. 

"Then there comes that dark side when you're done playing. I was suicidal. I got really dark because you do something all your life from 5 years old to 34 or 35 years old, and then it stops. I can remember times going into the Raiders parking lot and just sitting there like why the hell am I not in there. What's wrong with me? You just start asking yourself all these questions and you just go into a mental dark spiral. I know that's what happened to me. 

"I was sitting n the parking lot at one time with a gun to my head because I can't play football. It was hard. But I'm thankful for the things I went through and the people I had around me to just put their angels around me to get me through the dark times."

Bennett, comfortable talking about his painful past because it's helped him mature and understand that he's not alone, then opened the door to what was a scarring childhood. 

"Growing up, being physically abused, beat, watching my mom – when I was 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old – fighting off my step-dad because he was abusing my mom so much. I would take the beating just so she could get away," said Bennett. 

"I was put in dog kennels. I was chained to trees. All of that scarring, it just built up on you. Playing football, you're taught not to cry. You're taught to tough it out. Big boys don't cry, you're a football player. You have to be tough and you have to have a tough mind. We were programmed not to say anything."

Bennett said he suffered a "lot of deep pain" from losing a lot of his childhood, which included taking care of his household when he was 14-15 years old when his mother was on drugs. 

He masked that pain with the physical toll from football. As he put it, he was "playing for pain" to avoid the psychological and mental pain he carried from his youth. 

Today, Bennett, 41, carries the weight of the psychological stress of his past and the physical pain from playing professional football. His knees are bone-on-bone, his back and shoulder are "screwed up," a wrist popped out of place and it's difficult to squeeze a football. 

"It's just a lot. But at the end of the day it's the price you pay for it," Bennett said. 

Anyone dealing with a suicidal crisis or emotional distress can always contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255. The lifeline is available 24/7/365. 

Note: Bennett's interview (starts at about the 22-minute mark in the podcast) on the Twist podcast comes immediately after BMTN's Joe Nelson joined as a guest.

Next Up

Trey Potts

Trey Potts won't return this season after 'really scary' injury

Potts took over the lead back role after Mohamed Ibrahim's season-ending injury against Ohio State.

Ben Simmons

The Ben Simmons situation in Philadelphia continues to evolve

Minnesota opens the regular season on Oct. 20. Will Simmons be traded by then?

minnetonka moccasin

Minnetonka Moccasin apologizes for appropriating Native American culture

The company has laid out a plan to do better and support Native American communities.

ambulance

Girl, 4, dies after falling from trailer being pulled by pickup

The tragic incident happened Saturday afternoon in Wright County.

marquisha wiley (1)

Woman killed in St. Paul mass shooting identified as 27-year-old

Those who knew her said she was a vet tech with a big heart.

Screen Shot 2021-10-11 at 9.10.52 AM

Fire at Minneapolis apartment building after car hits gas meter

The fire started after a car struck the apartment's outside gas meter.

Screen Shot 2021-10-11 at 8.41.45 AM

Sheriff predicted violence night before mass shooting at St. Paul bar

One person was killed and 14 others were injured in the shootout.

lakewinds bloomington

Lakewinds Food Co-op seeks to open grocery store in Bloomington

The city is considering a proposal to redevelop the Clover Shopping Center.

white tailed deer

DNR bans movement of farmed deer into and within MN to prevent CWD

This comes after Minnesota deer farms imported five deer from an infected Wisconsin farm.

Related

Tarvaris Jackson

Reports: Ex-Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson killed in car accident

The former second-round pick died in a crash Sunday night.

Report: Former Vikings RB Michael Bennett gets 5 years in prison

The former Vikings running back last played in the NFL in 2010.

Report: Former Vikings RB Michael Bennett gets 5 years in prison

The former Vikings running back last played in the NFL in 2010.

Jermaine Wiggins

Ex-Viking Wiggins calls reported minority hiring proposal 'stupid'

The controversial proposal was reported by NFL.com's Jim Trotter.

Julio Jones

Will Julio Jones play in Sunday's opener against Vikings?

Jones was asked about the situation on Thursday.

Michael Thomas Saints

Sitting at home, Saints' Michael Thomas appears to mock Vikings

At least the Vikings can say they made it further than Thomas' Saints.

Former Viking Michael Bennett pleads guilty in fraud case

Former Viking Michael Bennett was part of a group of men who brought bogus tax refund checks to a check cashing store that was actually run by the FBI. Bennett could be sentenced to twenty years in prison but hopes his plea deal will shrink that.

Chris Hovan

Charges: Ex-Viking Chris Hovan drove drunk with child in the vehicle

His blood-alcohol concentration was more than three times the legal limit, charges say.