Stanford is renowned as one of the top academic schools in the nation.
As a graduate from Stanford, it’s safe to assume that Blake Martinez is intelligent and inquisitive.
It’s a good thing, too, because the Green Bay Packers are putting their fourth-round draft pick through a series of tests. Martinez has been lining up with the starters since the first day of the offseason practices. From the base defense, nickel package and being the lone inside linebacker in the dime, to factoring on all the special teams, Martinez has been here, there and everywhere to start training camp.
“I feel like I’m grasping it pretty well,” Martinez said before Thursday night’s practice. “Obviously, at the beginning, it was pretty tough to understand but I’m going to put in that amount of time until I understand everything to a ‘T.’ Obviously, I’m still learning and understanding certain things but I’m being able to withhold it all pretty well.”
With Sam Barrington still sidelined by last year’s season-ending injury, the Packers’ coaches haven’t bothered easing Martinez along. Sometimes, the coaches are afraid to put too much on a rookie’s plate. Not so with Martinez. They keep tossing stuff on his plate to see how much he can handle.
So far, he’s handled it all.
“Blake showed that he could pick it up quickly in the OTAs and, more importantly, that he can apply it,” coach Mike McCarthy said before practice. “He’s practiced well. I think the recognition, the communication, he’s done a good job. So it’ll be fun to see what he does Sunday.”
Sunday marks the Packers’ preseason opener in the Hall of Fame Game against Indianapolis. These preseason games will be the next set of exams in Martinez’s crash course into being a starting NFL linebacker. Martinez has done well through the first week of camp, but the impact plays that marked the shorts-and-helmets practices of May and June have mostly disappeared. That will be the next step, assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley said earlier this week.
“There’s no question about it,” McCurley said. “It’s a whole new scheme. He’s a smart guy and he was aware of the concepts. But that’s why it takes young guys time to develop. To go from good to great and where we want him to get to, it takes time. But the one thing I feel good about Blake is he learns from every rep. He can take a rep, get that experience and grow off of it. It’s not an easy transition but, at the same time, that’s what we need out of him. That’s where we want him to be. That’s why he’s in here right now and doing what he’s doing.”
Beyond his intelligence and ability to grasp the finer points of the defense, it helps that Martinez has a serious approach. He doesn’t like making mistakes.
“That’s how I’ve been throughout my whole life,” he said. “Any time I mess up, I’m extremely hard on myself. Going from high school to college, I was kind of immature, where it would affect me throughout my whole practice. As I learned from vets at Stanford, the next play’s a new play. Refresh. That’s helped me a lot here. ‘OK, I made this mistake. We’ll go over it tomorrow. I’ll fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Let’s move onto the next play and make sure it’s my best one.’”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.