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Martellus Bennett's tenure with Packers essentially ended at the bye

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Packers release Martellus Bennett (1:17)

Michael Smith and Jemele Hill discuss the Packers releasing Martellus Bennett for failing to disclose a medical condition and whether the 10-year veteran should call it a career in the NFL. (1:17)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers wanted Jared Cook. Instead, he got Martellus Bennett.

It didn't work out for anyone -- except Cook.

From the moment Bennett mentioned retirement last month, it essentially finalized how badly the whole Green Bay Packers tight end situation played out in March. Whoever is to blame for the inability to bring Cook back for another year -- the Packers would surely say Cook's agent overplayed their hand; Cook's people would surely say the Packers didn't negotiate fairly -- it brought everyone to this point: Bennett was released Wednesday with the designation that he failed to disclose a physical condition.

It's not clear if that's the shoulder injury that mysteriously popped up after he returned from the bye or if it's something else.

But the bye week was when it started to look as if things might end badly. That's when Bennett posted on Instagram that he was "pretty sure" the next eight games would be the conclusion of his NFL career. Never mind that the Packers actually had nine games left, plus any potential playoff games.

It caught the Packers by surprise, especially considering Bennett, 30, had signed a three-year, $21 million deal in March after negotiations broke off with Cook. Whether Bennett had his heart in things after Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6 is anyone's guess, especially since Bennett had decided not to talk to reporters during his final weeks in Green Bay. The last time he spoke to the media during the week of a game was Oct. 12.

When he returned from the bye, he told a small group of reporters that he had nothing to talk about even though he had not spoken publicly since his retirement post. When asked what led to his decision, he offered just one word: "Life." And then was out the door.

It was a departure from the Bennett who was on display earlier in the season, when he was as outgoing and engaging as anyone who had come through the locker room in recent years. From the beginning, Bennett seemed to embrace what it's like to play in the NFL's smallest city even though he maintained his year-round home in the Chicago suburbs and regularly made trips home to see his wife and daughter. He held one session with reporters in the offseason while wearing a foam cheesehead.

Bennett also made headlines when he raised his fist during the national anthem before the regular-season opener just days after the news broke about his brother, Michael, being detained by Las Vegas police. He then became one of three Packers players to sit during the anthem two weeks later. He also had a large hand in authoring the message that the Packers players released asking fans to join them in linking arms before the Sept. 28 game against the Bears.

Bennett's time in Green Bay might be best remembered for the pass he dropped in Minnesota. It was one of four drops in seven games, and it was the same play on which Rodgers broke his collarbone. Bennett dropped 11.1 percent of his targets this season. Only San Francisco 49ers rookie George Kittle has a higher drop rate (11.9 percent) this season among qualified tight ends, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In seven games, Bennett caught 24 passes for 233 yards (a 9.7-yard average) without a touchdown.

Meahwhile, Cook, who signed with the Oakland Raiders, ranks fourth in the NFL in receptions (39) and yards (499) among all NFL tight ends. It was immediately after the NFC Championship Game loss last year when Rodgers said re-signing Cook should be one of the Packers' priorities in the offseason.

Now, the only thing left in the Packers-Bennett relationship probably will be a nasty fight over the remaining two-thirds of the $6.3 million signing bonus that changed hands in March.