Cornelius Bennett was a leader of the Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl teams and a great player on a great defense. His Wall of Fame candidacy is complicated by off-the-field accusations, as we will get into, but judging his on-field performance is a no-brainer.
After being traded to the Bills in 1987 following a prolonged holdout with the Indianapolis Colts, Bennett made an instant impact. In his first full season in Buffalo, he made the first of five Pro Bowls and was named First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press. Six interceptions and a touchdown return, 22 forced fumbles and 19 recovered fumbles with another TD return, 52.5 sacks, and 793 tackles in his 8.5 seasons in Buffalo are all stellar. (He played in another 17 playoff games, too.)
Bennett is a member of the Hall of Fame’s 1990s All-Decade Second Team behind a trio of Pro Football Hall of Famers.
Keeping in mind that individual defensive stats weren’t really recorded before the early 1980s, Bennett is third in team history in tackles, fourth in sacks, first in defensive fumble recoveries, and second in forced fumbles. He was everywhere on this defense and was remarkably durable, missing only seven combined games in his final eight years in Buffalo.
But Bennett isn’t on the Wall of Fame. A few months after leaving the Bills to sign with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, Bennett was in town for an event. Following the event, he was accused of a violent sexual assault, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and spent time in jail as part of his sentence. Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News broke down the story in great detail earlier this offseason with quotes from Bennett. It was a terrible coda to his time in Buffalo.
Marv Levy and countless former Bills and fans have petitioned the team to add Bennett to the Wall of Fame, but it’s never happened.