RENTON, Wash. (AP) On a Seattle Seahawks roster that was created mostly through the draft, it's difficult to find a more important free agent signing than the luring of Michael Bennett during the 2013 offseason.
And a big reason why he originally decided on coming to Seattle was his relationship with current Atlanta coach Dan Quinn.
''I can talk all day about him, what he meant to me as a coach, and it's because of guys like Mike that I have this fantastic opportunity here,'' Quinn said.
Bennett could end up being a big reason why Quinn's second season in charge of the Falcons could come to an end early when Seattle faces Atlanta on Saturday in the NFC divisional playoff game. When the teams met in Week 6 , Bennett and Seattle's defensive line held Atlanta to 52 yards rushing, had 13 quarterback hits and sacked Matt Ryan four times.
Another big performance like that from Seattle's defensive line is likely required if the Seahawks are going to take down the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL during the regular season.
Since arriving in Seattle before the 2013 season, Bennett has 30 + sacks in the regular season, playing multiple positions on the defensive line. He's gone from being a rotational player in his first season with the Seahawks, to the most important player on Seattle's defensive front.
From Bennett's perspective, a great deal of that success is due to Quinn.
''He understands how to put people in the right positon to be a great player,'' Bennett said. ''I think when you can do that - Pete (Carroll) does a great job of that - you can put people in the position where they can be great, they can do great things on the field for you.''
The relationship between Bennett and Quinn dates to 2009. That's when Bennett had his first stint with the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie and Quinn was Seattle's defensive line coach. Bennett never played a game that season for the Seahawks and was eventually claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay at midseason. But the foundation of the relationship between Quinn and Bennett was created in that short time.
''Over the course of time, his game kept evolving and kept getting better and better and for those of you that see how quick his hands are and how hard he works, what you don't see is all the work that goes in behind the scenes when he's out in Hawaii and putting on all the training that he goes through,'' Quinn said.
That initial time together was at the root of why Bennett chose to sign with Seattle four years later. At that point, Bennett was an established starter in the NFL after getting his opportunity in Tampa Bay and Quinn was returning to the Seahawks as their defensive coordinator.
''I got the chance when he called me,'' Bennett recalled. ''Of course Pete (Carroll) called me but I didn't know who Pete Carroll was, but Dan called me first and was like, `You should come down here, I think we have something good, we just need an inside rusher.' I was like, `OK,' so I just came out here.''
Bennett wasn't pleased with one of Quinn's players after Seattle's 26-24 win in Week 6. Bennett was angry after a cut block by Atlanta's Jake Matthews caused Bennett to hyperextend his right knee. The injury ultimately led Bennett to have surgery and miss five games. Bennett was incensed after the game, but this week was more at ease - perhaps due to his recent contract extension .
''I don't have many reasons to be angry these days,'' Bennett said. ''I just want to go out there and play a game, playoffs, you just want to go out there and win a game. That's really what it's about.''
NOTES: Seattle RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice. It was his second straight day of practice after sitting out nearly two months due to a fractured shoulder blade. His status for Saturday's game is still unclear. ... DT Tony McDaniel was also limited in practice. He missed the opening round win over Detroit due to a concussion.
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