New York Giants linebacker Blake Martinez stood outside the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center on Friday afternoon, sporting a smile and cheerful demeanor.
“It’s been a long time,” said the Tucson native and Canyon del Oro high school graduate as he stepped onto the podium for his first media appearance since late September.
The fact that he was walking again was all the more reason for Martinez to smile when he returned to his hometown.
The sixth-year pro team and Giants captain tore his ACL in Week 3, ending his season. The 27-year-old has carved out a reputation in the league as one of the most enduring young linebackers, having played the past four seasons without missing a game.
Stanford’s 2016 fourth-round pick faces a long way back to the field; he approaches it with a day-to-day mentality.
“There are certain checkpoints and things like that,” Martinez said. “As you can see, able to start walking again. Things like moving around, weight lifting in the gym, nothing heavy or whatever. It was finally good, mentally for me, to be able to do stuff like that again.
Martinez wore a brace on his left knee this week as he watched the Giants train from the sidelines. The team wrapped up three days of training at the Arizona Wildcats football facility on Friday as they prepare to face the Chargers on Sunday in Los Angeles.
During the team’s time in Tucson, Martinez served as the Giants’ designated tour guide, taking players around town to his favorite restaurants.
“My favorite Mexican restaurant was Guadalajara Grill, so we went there,” he said. “Then we did a team activity at my father’s cousin No Anchovies, an excellent pizza. And then we at Fleming’s (Steakhouse). ”
When Martinez heard that the team would be coming to AU to train, he “was delighted,” he said before adding, “I have bittersweet moments about it.”
Arizona didn’t recruit Martinez as a high school student, even though he ranked as a three-star prospect and No.32 inside linebacker in his class.
“They didn’t want me to play here. So I went to Stanford and got smart, ”he said.
Martinez flourished at Stanford, eventually winning All-Pac-12 first-team honors in 2015 before being drafted by the Green Bay Packers. He spent four seasons at Green Bay before signing a three-year, $ 30 million contract with New York City in March 2020.
The linebacker recorded 140 tackles, three sacks and one interception with the Giants last year; he averaged 10.5 tackles in the first two games of 2021 before collapsing with the injury.
Martinez admitted it was difficult to watch from a distance, but said he was slowly re-integrating into the team’s daily routine as he became more mobile.
Last Sunday against Miami marked the first time Martinez was allowed to sit on the sidelines in a game. The previous eight weeks he had watched the games from his sofa.
“It’s slowly increasing more and more over the past couple of weeks,” Martinez said of his involvement.
For the Giants, who rank 23rd of 32 NFL teams in yards allowed and 18th in points allowed, regaining a healthy Martinez next season will be key.
Until then, Martinez is focused on what he can do each day to get a little closer to the comeback.
“For me, I have always been a person who likes a challenge,” he said. “And when that happened, obviously it sucks to happen, but it’s something that I can put on my list of things I’ve worked on, and come back and conquer.”
• Giants coach Joe Judge wore an Arizona football hoodie and UA cap to practice Friday.
• Quarterback Mike Glennon was cleared of concussion protocol and will be the team’s starting quarterback on Sunday with the Chargers. Daniel Jones remains out with a neck injury.
The Giants were scheduled to stay Friday night in Tucson before flying out on Saturday.
Contact sports producer Alec White at 573-4161 or [email protected]
On Twitter: @alecwhite_UA