Opinionated Jets lineman has worn out his welcome with two coaches, including the Seahawks' Mike Holmgren. But his play has always spoken volumes, too.
The Bah-ston accent makes Pete Kendall sound like a Kennedy, and the words spoken with that accent are almost Kennedy-esque.
Nothing to the effect of the memorable “Ask not what your country can do for you … ” speech, but nonetheless insightful.
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Kendall a Boston-area native, former Seahawk and current New York Jets left guard has always been known for his smarts and wit.
He has also been known to sound off on more than one occasion, which has endeared him to some but alienated him from others during his nine-year NFL career.
“I just think he speaks what’s on his mind,” said Seahawks tight end Itula Mili, who played with Kendall from 1998 until Kendall signed with the Arizona Cardinals after the 2000 season. “He’s very respectful to people at the same time. (If) you want to know what’s on his mind, he’ll tell you. That’s just how he is. He’s a guy who speaks, and what he says is what he feels.”
The outspoken Kendall has an opinion on plenty of things, and he’s not afraid to share it. Oh, by the way, he can play a little football.
Cut by the Cardinals the day before this season’s training camp was to open, the Seahawks’ 1996 first-round pick had a new employer just a week later. The Jets signed him to a five-year contract, and Kendall has started 12 games.
Kendall, 31, is part of an offensive line that features another ex-Seahawk, Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae. They have paved the way for running back Curtis Martin to gain 1,377 yards just eight fewer than Seattle’s Shaun Alexander.
“There’s not much after people start talking about Kevin,” Kendall said, “but there have been a few scraps for the rest of us. To be 9-4, this is the best record I believe that I’ve had up to this point in my career.”
From 1996 to 2000, Kendall was a mainstay at left guard in Seattle, becoming known as much for his on-field leadership as for his love of crossword puzzles.
Quiet for the most part, when Kendall had something to say, it was said with purpose and thought. And then, when his contract expired and the Seahawks’ offer was less than that of the Cardinals, Kendall was gone.
“When I look back, I just think about how much my wife and I enjoyed living in Kirkland,” Kendall said. “I wish that we had seen more of Seattle and gone out to the islands and seen more of the surrounding landscape. I wish we would have won some more games when I was there.”
Mili thought Kendall’s reputation as a “locker-room lawyer” was accurate.
“We used to have NFLPA meetings, and he would get up there and he would be really fighting for the players,” Mili recalled. “And he wasn’t even our (player) rep. But golly, he sure knew what he was talking about. He made everyone think, ‘Hmm. Yeah, that’s right. How come they’re not doing that for us?’ I have much respect for him.”
Speculation has it that Kendall’s politics led to Dennis Green, the Cardinals’ first-year coach, running Kendall out of Arizona. This despite Kendall being named the starting center after the Cardinals’ last minicamp in June.
After that camp, the Cardinals were chastised by the NFL and NFL Players Association for illegal workouts that mostly involved too much hitting.
Several Cardinals complained to the union, according to the East Valley Tribune of Mesa, Ariz. Kendall insisted he wasn’t one of them. But because of his penchant for speaking out and his popularity among teammates, there was a feeling that Kendall was the fall guy.
“I still don’t know why what happened happened,” Kendall said. “But at this point … I’m glad to be out of there. I just look at it as a blessing in disguise even though it was a tough time when it all first went down.”
Even without the alleged complaint, some felt Kendall didn’t fit in as Green’s type of player because Kendall was media-friendly and wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo or question coaching decisions. In fact, Kendall had done the same thing in Seattle under Mike Holmgren and had figured it was only a matter of time before he was let go by the Seahawks.
All of that aside, Kendall is back on the East Coast with a starting job and a big contract. And that says nearly as much about him as anything out of his mouth.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org