GREEN BAY – Blake Martinez has one more week to relax. Then it's back to business.
As Martinez departed Lambeau Field on the Packers Tailgate Tour bus Tuesday morning – along with teammates Kenny Clark and Ty Montgomery, plus President/CEO Mark Murphy and alumni Bubba Franks, Antonio Freeman and Rob Davis – he was looking forward to touring much of the southern half of Wisconsin, even crossing the border into Iowa, and interacting with all shapes and stripes of Packers fans.
The Packers departed for the 13th annual Tailgate Tour which will travel throughout southern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa & the Milwaukee area to visit with fans. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com
But he also has his eye on next week, when Green Bay begins offseason workouts and he'll start diving into new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's playbook, processing the system and the key communication role the third-year inside linebacker is likely to have in the middle of it.
"I think my mindset going into this is kind of back to my rookie season, where I think I spent four or five hours a night just making sure I worked through the whole entire install, learned every position and learned exactly what everyone is supposed to do," Martinez said just a few moments before the Tailgate Tour bus pulled out.
"I'm hoping that I get it down as fast as I did the first defense."
That shouldn't be a problem for the Stanford grad, but he does want to change his approach in one way – how he applies all his knowledge on the field.
Martinez admitted to "over-thinking" in games during his rookie 2016 season, but as soon as he cut it loose last year he once again became the tackling machine he was in college.
Green Bay's coaches credited Martinez with 158 tackles in 2017, up from 62 his rookie season and one of the top totals league-wide. His 12 tackles for loss led the team, and his 11 passes defensed ranked second. He was also involved in four turnover plays (one interception, one forced fumble, two recoveries) compared to just one in 2016.
Take a look at photos of Packers LB Blake Martinez from the 2017 season. Photos by Evan Siegle and Corey Wilson, packers.com
"I think it was just trying to be someone I wasn't," Martinez said of his rookie year. "Once I stepped on that field and told myself that I was going to be Blake Martinez and just go play and have fun and play intelligent football and make adjustments on the fly, it started working for me."
Montgomery, a college teammate at Stanford, certainly knew Martinez had it in him.
"It didn't surprise me at all," Montgomery said. "I remember when he came into Stanford his freshman year how good he was, how strong he was. Solid dude. Thumper. Instinctive. Just an amazing football player.
"Kid's tough as nails. Even though at Stanford we always say there's no such thing as tough, you're either trained or untrained. Blake is trained. He's a technician, so I wasn't surprised at all."
So now it's on Martinez to find the balance between knowing Pettine's defense inside and out, without getting bogged down mentally. Maintaining if not enhancing the communication responsibilities he's already taken on will be a challenge, but one Martinez believes will allow his game to flourish.
He wants to be a go-to guy for his teammates and the type of leader who can help them perform better. He also mentioned wanting to play with the Packers "for a while," another indication he's fired up about the direction the defense is headed.
There's going to be more calls for me to make and more freedom for me to make calls out there," said Martinez, describing what he's learned so far from his initial conversation with Pettine after he was hired.
He said Pettine also emphasized "no mental errors, no missed assignments, any of that," which can fall as much on the signal caller as anybody. Keeping all the moving parts organized will be paramount.
"He was going to be strict on it," Martinez said. "He wasn't going to let anything fly if you're a Pro Bowler or a rookie coming in."
Considering the jump he took in his second season, Martinez's rookie year already feels like a long time ago.
He's mastered an NFL playbook before, and he's learned how to let all the knowledge flow naturally into his game. Now it's time to do it all at once.
"It will be cool to see how much I get to dive into that and how much I can kind of grasp all that and just have fun with it," he said.