Martin putting incident behind him

WESTMINSTER -- Derrick Martin didn't need time to think, simply reading the eyes of quarterback Troy Smith and reacting to the football approaching his territory. In a blink, Martin had jumped the slant pattern for an interception.

It wasn't the only time Martin was a step ahead of the offense Saturday morning at McDaniel College. The third-year cornerback had another near-interception where he deflected a pass and tipped it to himself five times, trying in vain to secure possession.

"That was fun," Martin said. "The ball was in the air, and I tried to get on it every time I could. I got my hands on a couple of them."

For Martin, it's a definite case of needing to make a strong impression on a new coaching staff.

Months after an up-and-down season last year where Martin intercepted two passes with 40 tackles in three starts while playing in every game, the Ravens acquired speedy former Oakland Raiders first-round cornerback Fabian Washington in a trade. Washington is slated to be the nickel back.

The team also signed former Green Bay Packers cornerback Frank Walker, and starters Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are back from injury-marred seasons.

Last season, Martin was picked on repeatedly by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during a nationally-televised starting debut. By the end of the season, though, the game was beginning to slow down for him and Martin made a few quarterbacks pay for underestimating him.

"I feel like I learned a lot last year," Martin said. "My first start was a little rough, and, after that, it was all downhill. I learned from that first game. I learned the defense inside and out.

"Now, I can really just play to my abilities. I don't have to think about the plays. I can just play football. I'm better in pass coverage, and I'm keeping the ball in front of me. I feel like I can cover anybody."

Meanwhile, Martin, 23, was cited last month and charged with alleged possession of three small bags of marijuana at the Cleveland airport d uring a random TSA screening while attempting to board a flight, according to Ohio police officials.

The minor misdemeanor case, which is the equivalent to a ticket, is still pending. Martin's agent, Brad Cicala, told the Times that Martin plans to plead not guilty. The maximum penalty is a $150 fine.

A sixth-round draft pick out of Wyoming in 2006, Martin hasn't had any other brushes with the law or violations of the league's substance abuse policies. A conviction or guilty plea could enter Martin in the first stage of the NFL substance-abuse program.

Martin agreed to an interview request provided that he not be questioned about the off-field incident, which hasn't seemed to affect his status with the Ravens.

He has been receiving a lot of snaps, particularly with Rolle absent from camp following his father's death and McAlister on the non-football injury list. Martin is competing with Ronnie Prude and David Pittman, who's sidelined with a foot injury, for a roster spot.

A Denver native, Martin launched an offseason camp in Colorado that included free football and cheerleading clinics, a bowling event and a silent auction.

"I was happy to be able to give back to the community," he said. "That means a lot to me."

Plus, Martin and his wife, Alexa, celebrated the birth of a son, Derrick Jerome Martin III, on March 17.

"The little guy is getting big," Martin said. "It's a real blessing."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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