EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Last year, Blake Martinez and his father Marc had an idea for an addition to the family home in Arizona that has proven to be remarkably prescient.
"We built a facility that has a living area, it has a weight room, turf field and it has a basketball court," Martinez said today. "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."
He's spent so much time in that room he even signed his contract there last week when he officially became a member of the Giants (contingent on passing a physical after travel restrictions are lifted). The middle linebacker spent his first four NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
Martinez admits his dad did most of the work on Martinez's athletic complex.
"The only thing I helped with was the foundation part, because that was the only thing I could be here for," he said. "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."
In a normal year, of course, Martinez would stop using the new facility next Monday, when the Giants' offseason conditioning program was scheduled to begin. But the coronavirus pandemic has made this the most abnormal and unsettling spring almost anyone has ever experienced. NFL facilities remain closed, so Martinez has yet to travel to New Jersey. He hasn't met his new coaches in person. And as noted, he hasn't yet taken a Giants physical.
"Basically, I talked to (new head coach) Joe Judge," Martinez said. "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 (defensive coordinator) Pat Graham (his position coach in Green Bay in 2018). Then I talked to my inside linebacker coach (Kevin Sherrer). 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."
It is expected that in lieu of in-person meetings and on-field work, players will have to learn their playbooks and assignments remotely, perhaps via teleconferences.
"It'll be interesting, but I think it'll be something that I've kind of been used to, just within schooling and stuff," Martinez said. "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 regimen on a way to allow us to thrive in that kind of environment."
On a conference call, Martinez was asked a) if those who are new to a system and/or a team will be disadvantaged, and b) if those who are particularly intelligent and can quickly learn concepts and plays will be at an advantage?
"I think both of those things," said Martinez, who, it should be noted, earned his degree in management science and engineering at one of the nation's most prestigious universities. "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 camaraderie of 'Okay, 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 … 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 tests 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."
For now, Martinez and his new teammates will progress as much as possible as solo acts.