GREEN BAY, Wis. -- By the time Blake Martinez left his home in Tucson, Arizona, to report to the Green Bay Packers for rookie camp the week after the draft, the linebacker’s house had pretty well been cleared out of everything except for green and gold NFL gear.
So what happened to the stuff from the other 31 teams that his dad, Marc, bought before the draft so that his son would be ready to represent whichever team picked him?
Most of it, Martinez says, was scooped up by friends and family or given to charity.
Except for Chicago Bears paraphernalia.
“Pretty sure we burned the Bears stuff,” Martinez said.
It’s safe to say this rookie understands what the Packers-Bears rivalry is all about.
Martinez, the fourth-round pick from Stanford who has a chance to contribute right away at inside linebacker, quickly has become one of the Packers’ most entertaining rookies.
In addition to the story about his parents buying all of that NFL merchandise, Martinez shared the story of a chance encounter at last year’s NFC divisional playoff game at Arizona in which he (half-jokingly) introduced himself to Packers vice president of football administration Russ Ball as the team’s next inside linebacker.
Maybe that’s why his mother, Carissa, predicted before the draft that he would end up in Green Bay.
“I still don’t remember what my dad picked, but my mom was like, ‘Yeah, I think you’re going to go to the Packers. I have a hunch that’ll happen,’” Martinez said. “And I was like, ‘All right, Mom, whatever you say.’”
Perhaps Martinez’s mom knew just how much the Packers needed an inside linebacker given their plans to return Clay Matthews to his original outside linebacker position. Even if they don’t need Martinez to start -- they have Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan returning as the likely starters -- they would like to upgrade their dime linebacker spot.
The Packers believe Martinez has the speed and agility to effectively drop into coverage.
“Last year, I took that prominent role of being that cover guy and so I was in the dime packages and doing those things,” Martinez said.
“I think it was really helpful for me to get out in space like I was talking about and kind of go out there and cover those guys,” he added. “I was on slot receivers, tight ends, running backs and those type of things. It was such fast pace that I feel like my conditioning, that also helped with that aspect of my game. I was able to go out there and last at a high level all the time.”