this June 6, 2016, file photo, Green Bay Packers linebackers
Blake Martinez (50) and linebackers Jake Ryan (47) participate
in drills during NFL football practice in Green Bay, Wis.
Martinez has been making a case to be in the mix when the inside
linebacker position competitions heat up once training camp
opens in late July.
GREEN BAY — Clay
Matthews is back at outside linebacker during offseason workouts,
focusing his time on the practice field on his best position.
That means there are
plenty of snaps available in minicamp for the spot that Matthews has
vacated. The inside linebacker job could get a little makeover again
in Green Bay.
Rookie Blake Martinez
has been making a case to be in the mix when the position competitions
heat up once training camp opens in late July.
he's done a heck of a job" coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday.
"But the thing I've been impressed with ... the way he's picked
it up, the way he communicates, he seems very comfortable in the
That's saying a lot
for a fourth-round pick from Stanford who has been thrown in with
starters during offseason workouts. Martinez has seized on the
opportunity with Matthews sliding back outside and veteran Sam
Barrington working his way back from a foot injury that sidelined him
for most of last season.
"Yeah, it's very
difficult for a rookie to come in here and expect to start from Day
1," Matthews said earlier this month. "Obviously there's
going to be some learning along the way. But he's proven that for the
most part he's making the right calls and signals."
Inside linebacker has
been an area of concern for Green Bay since the waning years of A.J.
Hawk's time as a Packer, a tenure that ended after the 2014 season.
McCarthy moved Matthews inside at midseason that season to beef up the
linebacker stayed there in 2015 and played well. But days after last
season ended, McCarthy decided to move Matthews back outside.
"I think they
anticipated getting me back on the outside, which I said time and time
again, not only do I feel most comfortable at, but they do as
well," Matthews said.
sidelined, Martinez has seen time inside with second-year player Jake
Ryan, who took over a starting job inside toward the end of last
season. The playbook terminology that Ryan has been studying since
getting drafted in April made more sense when he was able to apply it
to on-field work.
"Once I got that
down, (the learning curve) started kind of slowing down for me,"
Martinez said. "And then getting those reps out in the field
working with the (starters has) been really good for me. And it's
slowed it down that much more."
Barrington should be
ready to take reps again when camp begins next month. Ryan wants to
open the season as a starter. Martinez is picking up tips from
quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who often engages in mental games from an
opponent's inside linebacker before the snap.
But Barrington and
Ryan share an edge over Martinez in one key area: NFL experience.
An inside linebacker
is similar to a quarterback of the defense, required to know
responsibilities of everyone on the field. Inside linebackers often
have the steepest learning curves on the defense.
For his part,
Martinez is already living up to his reputation as a hard worker,
spending two or three hours each night studying the playbook. When he
returns home to Arizona for the Packers' five-week break after
minicamp ends Thursday, Martinez plans to have intense study sessions
with his father.
Rookies trying to
prove themselves don't take vacations.
"No, this first
year it's all grind," Martinez said.