Recently signed New York Giants inside linebacker Blake Martinez got a taste of learning remotely during his days at Stanford. It's going to be put to good use with his new team.
Like many of us, Martinez is staying close to home as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the globe without discrimination.
Normally, the 26-year-old Martinez would be getting ready to join the Giants for their offseason program. When that will happen now is uncertain.
Since agreeing to and finally signing a three-year, $30 million contract in free agency, the former Green Bay Packer hasn't had a chance to do much. He did help his father put the finishing touches on a gym in the basement of his home in Tucson, Arizona. It's where he signed his new contract.
His conference call Monday was his first interaction with the New York metropolitan area media since reaching the deal two weeks ago. He has spoken to new coach Joe Judge by telephone a couple of times, renewed his friendship with former Packers assistant coach and current Giants defensive coordinator Pat Graham, and talked to inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer.
That's it. Martinez hasn't met with any new teammates. That was to have happened on April 6 when the offseason training started.
The NFL has not rescheduled a date for that or any other workouts.
The Giants have sent him an iPad with videotapes of the games from last year's 4-12 season. He has no idea when he will get a new playbook. It normally happens at the start of offseason training, so that makes it even tougher for a player switching teams.
“Kind of in limbo now,” Martinez said. "Working out and waiting for the next step within the virus protocol of what we are allowed to do, whether it's meetings with coaches and things like that, and try to soak up as much information.
“Once I get the playbook it will be my starting point of writing enough down to do the things necessary so I know the plays and the checks and everything,” said Martinez, who finished second in the NFL last season with 155 tackles.
The thought of remote learning doesn't scare Martinez. There were times in college, Martinez said, when they used conference calls and on-line lessons for school and football. He left Stanford in 2015.
“I have an understanding of how to survive through that,'' he said. ”It's weird not being able to sit in the same room and get to know each other that way. But it is one of the things you just make the most of it, and it'll be interesting to work through.”
Martinez noted the advantages and disadvantages to that type of education. He felt the biggest deficit is that learning in a group setting builds camaraderie. It will be hard to do that online.
Smart players will benefit from the learning remotely, he added.
“It will be a big advantage to those guys who can pick up things quickly, take good notes and understand what the coaches are telling them without having to take reps, because overall I think that is the biggest disadvantage of this whole thing,” Martinez said. “I think OTA reps and the ability to just walk through things as a group helps you out so much.”
Martinez doesn't know many of his current teammates. He has met defensive back Michael Thomas through Stanford. He has the same agent as Giants punter Riley Dixon.
“I will try to get to know players through chatting, video games, zoom calls, whatever,” said Martinez, adding that's a lot better than having to introduce himself when the NFL gets back to normal.
Looking back on free agency, Martinez said his chances of re-signing with the Packers were roughly 50-50. He said it become clear they were far apart on his worth as a player, noting he felt he was a clean-up guy on a defense where others got to make the big plays. Hence, his high tackle totals.
Martinez had 52 starts in 61 games for the Packers. He had 512 tackles, 10 sacks, three interceptions and 29 tackles for losses.
“I am able to do what I have to do,” he said. “I can go cover right ends. I can go cover running backs. I can play in zone. I can do all the things you need to do as an inside linebacker.”
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