Advertisement
Sports

Column: There’s something special about facing your sibling, or siblings, in the NFL

Michael, left, and Martellus Bennett talk the Seattle-Chicago game on Sept. 27, 2015. Michael is a defensive end for the Seahawks; Martellus is now a New England tight end.
Michael, left, and Martellus Bennett talk the Seattle-Chicago game on Sept. 27, 2015. Michael is a defensive end for the Seahawks; Martellus is now a New England tight end.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Derek Watt is a rookie fullback who’s still picking up the finer points of the San Diego Chargers’ playbook. He has yet to play a down in a real NFL game, yet this season he could face an incredibly daunting task — going nose to nose with the most dominant defender in the game.

And frankly, the kid can’t wait.

That’s because that defensive powerhouse is Watt’s older brother, J.J., the Houston Texans lineman named NFL defensive player of the year in three of the past four seasons. The brothers are separated by four years.

“I’m sure some way, somehow we’ll find a situation where we go up against each other,” said the younger Watt, whose Chargers play at Houston on Nov. 27. “We’ve never played with or against each other in a competitive, organized event. It would have had to have been a frontyard football game or something like that.”

Advertisement

That’s just one of several brotherly matchups this season, when siblings will either be on opposite sidelines or meet on the field. The two most celebrated sets of NFL brothers, the Mannings and Harbaughs, are no longer a story — Peyton Manning and Jim Harbaugh are out of the league — but plenty of families have less-publicized sets of brothers playing at the highest level.

There are three Fuller brothers in the league: cornerbacks Kyle (Chicago) and Kendall (Washington), and receiver Corey (Detroit). Kyle and Corey are both in the NFC North, so they face each other twice a season, and rookie Kendall will play both the Lions and Bears this year.

“Yeah, we talk about football,” Kendall said of getting together with his brothers. “We talk about life. We talk trash all the time.”

Most of the brothers play similar (or sometimes identical) positions. Ryan Kalil plays center for Carolina, for instance, and his younger brother, Matt, is a tackle for Minnesota. The Kendricks brothers, Eric (Minnesota) and Mychal (Philadelphia), are linebackers. Britton Colquitt is Cleveland’s punter and his brother, Dustin, punts for Kansas City. The McCown brothers, Josh (Cleveland) and Luke (New Orleans), are quarterbacks.

Advertisement

New England defensive end Chris Long, right, holds his 5-month-old son, Waylon, while spending time with his brother, Chicago Bears offensive tackle Kyle Long, at training camp on Aug. 16.

New England defensive end Chris Long, right, holds his 5-month-old son, Waylon, while spending time with his brother, Chicago Bears offensive tackle Kyle Long, at training camp on Aug. 16.

(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

The two sons of Hall of Fame defensive linemen Howie Long are in the league, with Chris playing defensive end for New England, and Kyle a guard for Chicago.

Then, there are the Nassib brothers, Ryan, the New York Giants backup quarterback, and his “little” brother, Carl, a rookie defensive end for Cleveland.

Carl, who at 275 is 52 pounds heavier than his older brother, had 151/2 sacks for Penn State to lead the nation. He was asked at the scouting combine whether he’d rather play with his brother or hit him.

“Both scenarios sound pretty awesome,” he said.

Brothers Michael and Martellus Bennett made headlines this summer after a lengthy and irreverent interview with ESPN the Magazine, in which they sharply and unflinchingly criticized several people associated with the NFL. Michael is a defensive end for Seattle; Martellus is a New England tight end.

Advertisement

Michael called Chicago’s Jay Cutler “the worst quarterback in the NFL.”

In reference to Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, Martellus said: “If a QB went 7-9, he’d never be able to find a job.”

Michael used an expletive to describe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, then settled on “overpaid.”

Brothers Geoff and Mitchell Schwartz have been offensive linemen in the league together since 2012 — Geoff’s first year was 2008 — although they’ve never been on the same team. Mitchell is a tackle for Kansas City; Geoff, who played for five teams, was released last week by Detroit.

The Schwartz brothers, who grew up in Los Angeles, were the first Jewish siblings to play in the NFL since 1923. In their recently released book, “Eat My Schwartz,” they write about their faith, family, football and food — including their favorite recipes.

Back when he was playing for Indianapolis and the Colts were at home, Peyton Manning traditionally had his postgame meal at St. Elmo’s Steak House downtown. He had a permanently reserved table in a wine cellar downstairs, and paid to have a large flat-screen TV installed, mostly for those times he could watch Eli quarterback the Giants. All part of having your brother in the league.

As for the Watt brothers, they communicate by group chat — J.J., Derek, and T.J., a tight end at the University of Wisconsin — and are constantly texting each other. It’s a closed loop, so only those three see the messages.

“We’ll come in the locker room after a game, or be on the bus, and there are a bunch of messages from them on the phone,” Derek said. “It will be, ‘Nice block,’ or, ‘Nice catch.’ You write that stuff knowing they can’t see it during the game, obviously, but they’ll have it for them afterward.”

Advertisement

Just brothers looking after brothers.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer


Advertisement