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2023 Training Camp

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Notebook: Inside Wink Martindale's 'keep it real' meetings


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Wink Martindale and Kayvon Thibodeaux both have high expectations for the Giants' second-year outside linebacker. When Thibodeaux doesn't perform to the standard the defensive coordinator believes he should reach, Martindale lets him know what he wants.

"I expect him to be at the top of everything, and so do we," Martindale said. "I've talked to him about his practice. I think that he heard me clearly. I talked to him in front of the entire defense."

Which was perfectly fine with Thibodeaux.

"He's just preaching to the choir," he said. "I am a guy who kind of preaches that stuff to myself, and I am a guy who tries to lead in that standpoint. So, yeah, we are talking the same language as always and just continuing to get better. I think that's the point of camp. It's easy when you get to practice 15, 16, 17, it starts to get complacent, it gets repetitive. Just continuing to stay fresh, continuing all that grind."

Martindale didn't go out of his way to critique the No. 5 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. The veteran coach is a straight talker who loathes ambiguity. Whether it's on solid, shaky or shifting ground, he wants his players to know where they stand at all times.

"I do a 'keep it real' with everybody on where they're at and why they're there," Martindale said. The last thing I want as a coach is for a player to drive in this parking lot and not know where they stand, especially this time of year. Because I think that we build our relationships, we build our foundation on trust and honesty. I tell them what I think and where they stand, and where the competition is, where the line is. I talk about all that."

Outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins worked with Martindale for 10 years on the Baltimore Ravens' staff. He is an admirer not just of his mentor's strategic knowledge and decision-making acumen, but his expertise at getting the best out of each player.

"Wink does an unbelievable job in what we call the 'keep it real' meetings," Wilkins said. "Every guy on the roster, whether you're (a) superstar or the guy who just got here two days ago, he's going to know exactly where they stand and what things we can build on to get to the max of your potential. Being around Wink, he doesn't care who you are, what your role is. He wants you to reach your max. So that's something that with everybody in the room, they've heard that message directed at them.

"So, what do we (have), 45 guys, 43 guys on defense? Every single guy is going to get a great message of empowerment of, 'Hey, here's one thing we can focus on tomorrow. Here's one thing, long term for you.' So that's really the whole defense. You could pick out any guy and they'd have something to build on, but we're always trying to just recalibrate the mountain, right? Like we reached this point, go get to the next one and that's really one of the many great things about Wink is that he's always going to pull the best out of everybody."

Veteran defensive lineman Leonard Williams is another fan of Martindale's coaching methods.

"As a player, I have never wanted a coach to be a 'yes' man," Williams said. "The coach's job is to push us and get the best potential out of us as they can. Sometimes it takes that little extra push and fire under us to get us going and, honestly, going on nine years of playing, I have never had a coach keep it real like that before and I think the guys respect it, honestly. Sometimes in camp guys are trying to make the team and they don't really know how the coaches see them or where they fit on the roster and stuff like that. In those 'keep it real' meetings, he goes down every single player. It's not just Kayvon, or not just me, or not just anybody. He addresses every single individual and lets you know exactly how he feels, and I think the guys respect it."

Which bring us back to Thibodeaux, who had 4.0 sacks and earned one NFC Defensive Player of the Week award last year as a rookie. Martindale was asked yesterday about Thibodeau's training camp in general and more specifically his performance in the joint practices with the Lions last week in Detroit.

"I thought that in Detroit, on Tuesday and Wednesday, I think he caused two fumbles and recovered two fumbles," Martindale said. "…So, Kayvon is going to be fine, first of all. Like I said, he caused two fumbles, and he recovered two fumbles. In the two days, we had, like, eight takeaways against, what were they, a top five offense last year, which gave us confidence in ourselves and the way we competed there."

"It wasn't anything negative," Thibodeaux said of the critique. "For a coach talking to, for example, a great player and a coach talking to a player that he sees potential in, it's going to be different. So, him wanting to let me know that he feels I can be a Pro Bowler this year, he feels I can kind of take the league by storm, and me knowing that him saying it, really doesn't mean much, right? It's about what I go do every day, and that's kind of the conversation that we had, that I am the only one who can get me to the places that I want to be."

Martindale seems pleased with the developments of the last week.

"Like I said, we had a great week in Detroit," he said. "I'm sure you haven't heard that quote very often. But it was it was a great week, and I'm excited to take this next step."

*Coach Brian Daboll was not prepared to say how much – or even if – the Giants starters will play against Carolina. Most of the Giants' veteran starters did not play against the Lions.

"The same thing as during the regular season, that's what we'll do," Daboll said. "We'll go through practice, meet with the medical staff, meet with the coaches and then make our decision."

View photos from the Giants' preseason opener against the Lions in Detroit.

*Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, tight end Darren Waller, tackle Andrew Thomas and wide receiver Sterling Shepard received veteran rest days on Wednesday.

*Players who did not practice due to injuries were wide receiver Cole Beasley, running back Gary Brightwell, offensive lineman Tyre Phillips, defensive lineman Ryder Anderson and linebacker Cam Brown.

*Right tackle Evan Neal, who suffered a concussion last week in Detroit, cleared protocol.

*The Giants signed tackle Julien Davenport, who has played in 60 regular-season games with 32 starts for Houston, Miami and Indianapolis. He has started 24 games at left tackle, six on the right side and two as an extra tackle.

*Davenport did not play in a regular-season game in 2022 when he spent the second half of the season on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad.

*Rookie linebacker Troy Brown was waived/injured.

*Tom Coughlin, who coached the Giants to victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, attended practice. He is in town to support his Jay Fund Foundation, which helps families of children with cancer.


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