David Martin has shown rare athletic ability for a tight end since coming to Green Bay in 2001, and that ability was clearly put to use with the two eye-popping pass receptions he had last Sunday in Miami.
But Martin doesn't want Sunday's display to be just another momentary flash, only to see his progress and productivity derailed by health concerns. He's determined to put together a full season in 2006, something he's done just once in his first five years as a Packer.
Martin's effort Sunday gives him 11 catches for 87 yards on the year, on pace to equal if not surpass the career highs he set last season with 27 catches for 224 yards and three TDs. That production came in just 12 games, and they're numbers Martin knows can improve if he can simply stay on the field more.
To avoid the injuries that have caused him to miss 21 of a possible 80 regular-season games in his career (a list that has included shoulder, knee, groin and concussion problems), Martin took some significant steps in the off-season.
He began working out sooner in an effort to prevent his body from getting too out-of-shape in the off-season. He also changed his diet, eating more fruits and drinking a lot of milk and orange juice to keep his calcium up and his bones stronger.
He has focused a lot of his weight-room work on his legs, specifically targeting his hamstring and groin muscles in an effort to keep them in top shape for the long, grueling season.
"Usually those will go once my legs get worn out and tired and overworked," Martin said. "So that's what I've focused on."
Has it worked?
"So far," he said, knocking on his locker's wood frame. "So far."
His body didn't appear to have any problems holding up in the 100-degree on-field temperatures in Miami on Sunday, as Martin made two dynamite catches for 31 yards to contribute to the Packers' first and last scores of the game.
On the opening play of the second quarter on a crossing route over the middle, Martin lunged with one arm to essentially tip the ball back to himself so he could get two hands on it. The diving grab was good for 18 yards and converted a third-and-8, moving the Packers across midfield and into field-goal range. A handful of plays later, the Packers were on the board and trailed only 7-3.
Then in the fourth quarter, with the Packers leading by three and driving for a game-clinching score, Martin snuck open in the end zone. But Brett Favre's low throw looked as though it might fall incomplete or get picked off by a defender, whom Martin claimed he didn't even see, diving at his feet.
"I saw the ball get deflected at the line, but it was still in flight, though," Martin said. "So I kept my eyes on it, I reached down for it, and I put my hands where the ball was going to be at, and the defender missed it, so I was able to pull it away from him."
The 13-yard shoe-top grab put the Packers ahead 34-24 with 5:45 left to play and was the first touchdown by a Packers tight end this season.
That breakthrough wasn't lost in Martin, either, who knows the tight ends could be counted on for more receptions with receivers Robert Ferguson and Koren Robinson gone for the season and rookie Greg Jennings battling back from an ankle injury.
"We'd love to get in more," he said. "I'm sure with the receiver situation and us being a veteran group, we'll be in the mix more and helping out more in the passing game."