Blake Martinez finally got to meet his new teammates in person when he reported for his first training camp with the Giants last week. After a spring in which all of his interactions with the team were conducted virtually, and in which he and his fellow Giants did the best they could to form bonds in everything from meetings and video game binges, Martinez said he was thrilled to finally see them in person.
“It was like, ‘Oh sweet, that’s what you look like, it’s not just your face, I get your whole body now,” Martinez said in a virtual news conference on Thursday. “It was cool to walk in and make it seem like we have been friends for the last six months.”
For Martinez, though, there is something more important than getting to know his new teammates. It’s that they get to know him. That they start to understand his role on this defense as the middle linebacker, and they start to trust him in that position.
“For me it’s just being able to allow those guys to understand that I’m going to be on top of everything from checks, making sure people are lined up in the right position, and that I am that calming factor,” he said. “I take every single day to keep chipping at that. Whether it’s walk-throughs or talking in meetings, guys start to recognize that, OK, this guy knows what's going on, this guy is going to allow me to not have any freak-out moments. If things are moving fast, he’s the guy that I can turn to and calm myself down.”
Normally that type of personality would pronounce itself in the spring during OTAs and minicamps. Martinez said he always saw those often overlooked periods on the calendar as the “earning the respect portion” of the year, especially for rookies and newly acquired free agents.
“You can work out together and you get to see everybody’s work ethic, you get to see the guys doing extra,” he said. “You see the guys take control in certain tough situations, whether it’s conditioning, meetings, walk-throughs and things like that.”
This spring, though, none of that happened. So now, in the early stages of a training camp that is essentially a compressed version of the entire offseason, Martinez is making sure all of the traits he displayed in his tenure with the Packers, and all of the qualities that attracted the Giants to him as a free agent, are consistently visible and overwhelmingly clear.
He doesn’t have time to ease into the pilot’s seat of this defense, he has to grab the yoke and start flying it.
Already, his teammates are recognizing him as their on-field leader.
“It’s natural for him to do that,” said defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, the longest-tenured Giants player on defense. “As a linebacker, that’s what linebackers do. They coach the defense up and stuff like that. It’s super early and we’ve only been out here for a couple of days now but I feel like our whole thing with him will develop a lot more in the coming weeks.”
Martinez doesn’t see it as an extra burden. It’s just part of the job at middle linebacker.
It’s just part of being himself.
“That’s the reason I am here, to be that guy,” he said. “For me, I pride myself on not being too flustered in any moments and being that rock for the defense. Especially being the quote unquote quarterback on the defense, being that guy that’s always calm, cool and collected.”
And making sure everyone else knows it.
Notes & quotes: Daniel Jones posted some impressive numbers as a rookie quarterback, but he’s already improved in one measurable early in his second season: His weight. After playing at around 220 pounds last year, Jones reported to training camp at a bulked-up 229. “I feel like I’m as strong as I’ve been,” Jones said on a virtual news conference on Thursday. “I feel like I’m in good shape. I was in Charlotte for most of the offseason and training there. I wanted to get stronger and wanted to gain some weight for what that does for every part of my game - standing in the pocket, running when I need to, and obviously throwing the ball as efficiently as I can using my strength, my lower body. Each piece of that was part of the goal of the offseason in my training” … Tomlinson said there are plenty of differences in this training camp, which has been adjusted to meet league guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID-19. The biggest, he said, was having everyone so spaced out in the locker room. “You have to keep yelling over and over to make sure everybody can hear you through the mask,” he said. “You might lose your voice every now and again.”