CONFERENCE CALL WITH LINEBACKER BLAKE MARTINEZ…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with linebacker Blake Martinez, who the New York Giants signed on March 16th to a 3-year, $30.75 million contract:
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Patrick Graham? What can you tell us about what the defense will look like and what your role will be?
A: We had that year together and we became super close, he was my inside linebacker coach. For me, what made me so excited to work with him this year and the following years is how smart he is. I think he is probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around. The preparation he puts in every week, his intensity, just how much he cares about the game of football. It just allowed me to go in every Sunday or Monday or Thursday games fully prepared. I never felt like I didn’t know what play was going to happen next. He put that much into it and that’s how it easy it was us to understand what he was communicating to us that made everything so much easier. Throughout the week he would basically emphasize on little things whether it was this team runs routes at 10 to 12 yards and break or this team runs at 14 yards. This team runs a lot of short routes, this team does a lot of crossing routes. This team runs outside zone, inside zone, toss, stretch whatever it ends up being. You knew that you can emphasize that throughout the week. We would do little drills whether it was in individual or on the side that would allow you to get those game-like reps and find advantages throughout the week that you could use on that given game. Once again, it made it that much easier to make plays and be successful in that given week.
Q: What’s going to be the biggest difference between Patrick Graham’s defense and what you just came away from in Mike Pettine’s defense?
A: I don’t know the exact answer to that just because we haven’t gotten to the X’s and O’s of Pat’s defense. Basically, when I was working with Pat I was working within Coach Pettine’s defense. Just from understanding Pat and what he is looking for and how he put forth certain things in Coach Pettine’s defense, I think it’s just the aggressive nature. Everyone working together, everyone on the same page, everyone communicating. Everyone is going to know exactly where to be and what to do on every given call. There’s not going to be much, if any, mental errors at all. I know he stressed that a bunch. I don’t know if it is going to be simple but it will be understood by all 11 that are out there. Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom for me to make checks, make calls and adjustments on a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays. There is going to be a lot of communication across the board. I think it is going to be an awesome defense and I’m just waiting to finally be able to get to learn and see what he has for us.
Q: Can you take us through the free agency process? I know this was the first time for you.
A: It was interesting. I think it was one of those things where you are waiting for Christmas to happen and it took forever it seemed like, to finally figure out where I was going to be, what team I was going to be on and how it was going to be situated. When it first started on that Monday, I was kind of anxious waiting to hear from my agent what teams reached out officially. Going throughout the process it was a waiting game. I had a couple of other options too, but the Giants were the best option for me. Just the market, obviously Pat Graham and a great young team. It was a no brainer for me at a certain point throughout the free agency process that Monday. My agent laid my options on the table and I was like honestly let’s get this thing done with the Giants. That’s where I want to be, that’s where I think my best opportunity is to be successful and be successful as a team. So I went through that process and at night time it kind of got close to finalizing and then it was official once we figured out the small little logistic things.
Q: You mentioned you are joining a young team and a young defense. Did you view that as a positive? Last year, being so young, they didn’t perform up to the standards they had hoped right away. There is a lot of growing still to do.
A: That’s a positive to me. I think they have a group that is extremely talented smart guys, great players all across the board on offense and defense. It’s going to be cool to grow that group together. For me, going from last year or I guess two years ago when we were 6-9-1 to all of the sudden going 13-3. Seeing the little things you had to change and adapt to and incorporate within a given week, a given offseason, within a different training camp that just allowed the defense to mesh in a certain way that allowed us to be so successful last year. I think I can incorporate those things into this defense and this team and I think it will be an awesome thing that we are going to do throughout this next season.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw Kyler Fackrell was joining you in New York? What is he going to bring to the table for the Giants?
A: It was awesome. I texted him when I saw on Twitter. I reached out to him and we were both excited we are going to be teammates again. He’s an amazing player and I think there is a lot of things that he hasn’t been able to show because of certain kind of depth chart things, certain roles he was placed into. Obviously, he had a 10-sack season two years ago. This last year he was a role player that stepped in and did a lot of great things. I think he is one of the best zone coverage linebackers in the NFL in my opinion. What he has been able to do for us and what he’s been asked to do, he’s done a phenomenal job and I know he is going to be a great asset to this team and show people a lot of great things this year.
Q: Did you sign your contract in a weight room?
A: We started this project last year. We built a facility that has a living area, it has a weight room, turf field and it has a basketball court. Me and my dad made this project together. It was weirdly at a perfect time because we have to be quarantined. So I’m basically quarantined in a weight room. It’s been awesome for me. The picture was taken in the weight room part of the facility.
Q: So you are in Arizona for the time being then?
Q: Were you surprised that the Packers didn’t want you back? Did you see any reason why you shouldn’t have returned there to continue what you started?
A: It was 50/50 of a surprise and not a surprise. I think the way they value the inside linebacker position especially in that defense, it wasn’t as valued as other places I guess in my opinion. Overall, it was one of the things where they offered me, and we were just in different wave lengths on where I valued myself and where they valued it. At the end of the day, it was one of the decisions that had to be made on both sides. It’s a business and right now I am extremely happy where I am and can’t wait to start playing for the Giants and finally get into the facility.
Q: I just want to back track to the facility. I know your dad is a contractor. Did you and your dad put it together?
A: Yea. The only thing I helped with was the foundation part because that was the only thing I could be here for. During the season was when he was building it this last year. It was pretty much done when I came back. All we had to do was put the weight room equipment in and turf field down. Right now, it is completely done. It’s been amazing to have.
Q: Did you have to pick up all the nails again?
A: Everyone knows that story. It’s been designated down to my little brother, he is the nail picking up guy. He gets the 10 bucks if he finishes it all.
Q: You mentioned that the Packers didn’t value inside linebacker the way other teams might. I assume you are thinking the Giants value that position. Do you think that the way they will play up front will help you make more impact plays than you have in previous years?
A: I think that’s the one misconception of me, I guess the public view. The way we ran the defense, at least the last two years, is I’m kind of put into the clean-up crew guy. There’s a lot of situations where you see numerous other defenses where its like okay you have A-B gap responsibility as an inside linebacker, you have one gap responsibility – not to get too much into football stuff but there’s two high, you have two gap responsibility on certain plays, as other people split safety. In our defense no matter what it was, since I was the only linebacker on the field, I was taught and told once again, to be the clean up crew guy. There wasn’t any gap responsibilities for me it was just kind of “hey play off Kenny (Clark), play off Za’Darius (Smith), play off Preston (Smith), play off Dean (Lowry)” play off these guys and basically make them right. They were able to do whatever they wanted to do and then I would go make the plays depending on that. I know there’s been things like you make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there. For the majority of the time there that’s what I was told to do. It’s just me I guess doing my job in that sense. Going into this defense, once I learn being whatever it ends up being how we play. I hope I am able to trigger it, solo gaps, do those type of things and make those type of impact plays.
Q: You hear so much now about the modern-day linebacker and more emphasis on coverage versus going up and making plays at the line of scrimmage. I’m just curious, when you view your game, where do you fit into that I guess profile or stereotype or whatever people think the modern-day linebacker needs to be?
A: In my opinion, I think I fit that completely. There were probably two times last year that I was called to, I guess, man coverage somebody that I made my own mental mistakes on. I think it was an eight-yard gain on an angle route against the Broncos, or nine or 10, whatever it ends up being. Basically, I just went too far outside, cut back inside. Then last year against the 49ers, where I played too heavy outside leverage, should have played inside leverage on (Raheem) Mostert, and he got a 20-yard burst route across the line of scrimmage. But for the most part, other than that, my coach last year, he basically was like ‘Oh yeah, you’re one of the best, if not the best, zone coverage linebackers I’ve ever been around’. Being able to see the field, see crossing routes, being able to communicate, do all those types of things. I think the tough part that obviously, same thing, where it’s been like ‘Oh yeah, Blake, coverage this thing, blah blah blah,’ whatever it ends up being, whatever critics or those types of things. It’s been certain situations where within those given calls or zone calls, because last year we played a lot of match coverage zone, so it looks like we’re in man coverage but technically we have inside help or outside help or being able to pass off and those types of things. There were small communication lapses and misunderstandings, where we were able to pass off, which totally understood from the public perception, you look at it and be like ‘Oh what the heck? Shouldn’t this guy be covering him? Or shouldn’t Blake be covering him?’ Those types of things. But overall, I think I am able to do whatever I’m asked to do. I can go and cover tight ends, I can go and cover running backs, I can play in zones, I can do all of the things that you need to do as an inside linebacker.
Q: Two quick questions. One is the facility, your gym, that’s connected to your home?
Martinez: Yeah. Basically, downstairs is a weight room and all that stuff. Then upstairs is the living area.
Q: Second question is a little bit more complex. This is an odd offseason with the Coronavirus. How different is the preparing for the season at this point? Have you gotten a playbook or how much can you work out? Have you talked to the coaches much?
A: Good question. Basically, I’ve talked to Joe Judge, the head coach. Obviously, you guys know that. We’ve kind of had short conversations, I got kind of an introduction from him, and I gave him an introduction about myself, little things like that. Excited, obviously, to be a Giant. I can’t wait to finally get over there. Then I talked to Pat Graham. Then I talked to my inside linebacker coach. I talked to different people within the facility at the Giants and things like that. They were able to send over an iPad, so I have an iPad that only has the games from last year. No playbook or anything yet, because I don’t think they’re allowed to send stuff over yet or whatever the rule is for that. Kind of in limbo right now, just kind of working out and those types of things and kind of waiting for the next steps within the virus protocol of what we’re allowed to do, whether it’s meetings with coaches and things like that, and just try to soak up as much information. I know once I’m able to get the playbook, it’ll kind of be my starting point of writing the notes down, doing the things necessary to make sure I know all the plays and checks and everything.
Q: What do you think it’s going to be like to have to do meetings and stuff and learn the playbook through teleconferences basically?
A: It’ll be interesting, but I think it’ll be something that I’ve kind of been used to, just within schooling and stuff. At Stanford, we did a lot of video stuff, conference things, so I kind of have an understanding of how I thrive learning through that. It’ll be weird not being able to obviously sit in the same room, get to know each other that way. But it’s one of the things that you just make the most of it. It’ll be interesting to work through, but I think the coaches right now are setting up a good kind of regiment on a way to allow us to thrive in that kind of environment.
Q: Given this new remote learning, do you think it’s going to be a disadvantage for people like you who are new to a system and new to a team? The second part to that question is do you think it will be an advantage to guys who are bright and sharp and can pick things up quickly?
A: Yeah, I think both of those things. I think it’ll be a decent disadvantage for me just not being able to… I think you grow a lot, whether it’s even just working out as a team, running as a team, maybe grow that comradery of ‘Ok, this guy next to me is working his butt off to get better,’ and it’s helping the team out. You can tell their work ethic. I think you grow that respect, just not even having to say anything, but by just working. I think that will be a big disadvantage just relationship-wise. Also yeah, same thing. It’ll be a big advantage to guys that are able to pick up things quickly, take good notes, understand what the coach is telling him without having to be able to take rests on those types of things. Overall, I think that’s the biggest disadvantage of this whole thing, is I think OTA reps and just that ability to walk through things as a group or whatever it ends up being, helps you out so much.
Q: I know the relationship with Pat Graham and obviously Kyler, but are you familiar, did you have any previous relationship, with any of the guys on the Giants, especially the defense?
A: No, actually I haven’t. The first one I kind of knew prior is Michael Thomas. We didn’t play together at Stanford, but we kind of knew each other from certain events and things that happened at Stanford. We did the NFLPA event one year together. So, it’ll be cool to kind of re-connect with him. Then Riley Dixon is part of my agency and we have the same agent, so we knew each other from small kinds of things that we’ve done with our agency. But overall, not too many familiar faces for me.
Q: I would imagine from your perspective then, you’re the guy in the middle of the defense, at some point, even if you guys are distancing away from the facility, you’re going to try to get guys together, whether it’s video conferencing or whatever, to kind of get to know some of these guys?
A: Oh yeah, 100 percent. I think just kind of using interesting ways to kind of have fun and interact without having to be with each other, whether it’s playing video games or like you said, chatting on a Zoom call or a Skype call, whatever it ends up being, just to kind of get to know each other and bond that way so when we do step in the facility for the first time, it’s not something that’s ‘Oh hey, I’m Blake’ or whatever it ends up being.