It’s been a vacillating inaugural season for Tennessee Titans DT Mike Martin. Not only has his snap count gone up and down like a yo-yo, he’s literally had to pay for some of his rookie mistakes. Take the $15,750 fine for a roughing the passer penalty for a hit on fellow rookie Andrew Luck in Week 9, for example.
But all of his growing pains are just that, growing pains.
Martin, for his part, has taken advantage of every second he’s had on the field, applying bone-crushing hits on everyone that dares come his way, proving his worth on every snap to all of Titans nation. TDdaily recently caught up with the former Michigan standout to talk about his first year in the NFL. We asked the questions, he had the answers.
TD: How would you rate your rookie season so far?
Mike Martin: I’m always gonna be my hardest critic. Always. That’s what gives me my edge and why I work so hard. But at this point, I just knew I wanted to come in and make a big impact. And, you know, we struggled with stopping the run and things like that, so I wanted to be a big part in helping [Tennessee] do that. I’ve been doing a pretty good job of that but there’s always room for improvement in my game.
TD: What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a rookie in the NFL?
MM: When I was asked that question early on in the season, it was just getting adapted to this level and playing at this level. But now, it’s the amount of games. It’s the amount. It’s the fact that week to week you have to play at such a high level. For my whole life, I was used to playing 12 games. Now you play 16 with four preseason games and at this point in the season, you just gotta be really careful with taking care of your body and that’s part of being a pro. But I’ve been really focusing on just keeping my body right and my form at a top level every time I hit the field.
TD: Looking back, would you take back that Andrew Luck hit?
MM: I got fined but I wouldn’t take the hit back because it’s like if I was at that same point, I wouldn’t have maybe ducked my head like I did. But I wouldn’t want to have slowed down and not hit him because that’s how I play. I never second-guess myself on a hit. That’s just the NFL, they’re going to protect the quarterback. That’s part of being a rookie, learning how to run up on a QB and learning those points of the game and when you’re in the heat of battle, you just gotta do what you do. But I just have to take that fine and it is what it is.
TD: How are you handling the loss of snaps?
MM: It’s really easy to get down on that but I know what I’m capable of and I know why they drafted me. It’s not something where I’ve thought about why I haven’t gotten snaps or whatever, I just gotta come to practice and compete every single day. If I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, my time’s gonna come. But every time I’ve had opportunities, I’ve taken advantage of it. So whenever they put me on that field, I’m gonna show up and I’m gonna make plays. That’s all I can control. I can’t control what they do but when they call on me, I gotta take advantage of it.
TD: Has anyone on the team taken you under their wing?
MM: Our guys are really young. The guys that I back up like Jurrell Casey, this is his second year and he’s young, too, so they tell me things but really we’re all just sorting things out together. But we don’t really have that luxury of having a guy, at least at the tackle position, that can teach us the tricks or whatever, but we have great coaches. Coach Keith Millard and Tracy Rocker, they do a great job of coaching.
TD: How does the team feel about Chris Johnson’s resurgence?
MM: There are a lot of doubters and naysayers when he had that slow start, but we know what kind of guy CJ is. What kind of energy he brings to practice and just how he carries himself. So we knew he was frustrated but that made him practice even harder. I feel like everybody goes through that. Whether it be the marquee or best guy on the team to a guy that’s just playing his role. We knew he’d get out of it.
TD: Growing up, who did you model your game after?
MM: Being a Michigan guy, growing up I watched football all the time and I really looked up to the LaMarr Woodley played and also Brandon Graham. They are always just constantly going, never taking a playoff. They have that constant motor and are always getting after the quarterback and getting to the ball. I wanted to be a playmaker like that and as I got older, I met those guys, trained with them and I learned a lot from them and their style of play. I wanted to be like those guys.
TD: Who do you like to tackle/hit the most?
MM: QB all day man. If it’s not the QB, then something’s wrong with you. Because that’s where you make the big plays. As a little kid growing up, when a guy gets a sack, it’s a big play. It can change the game. Get a forced fumble turnover or whatever, so that’s something you always want to do is get after the quarterback.
TD: So what are the secrets to the defensive tackle position?
MM: To get off the ball, you gotta shoot your hands, because if they get their hands on you first, as an offensive lineman, then it’s over. You can’t stay blocked and you just gotta have a motor. So it’s basically get off, shoot your hands and then get off the blocks. It’s gotta be one fluid motion and when you can do that, it’s gonna be real tough to block you. That’s what makes a successful defensive tackle.
TD: The Titans haven’t had the ideal season. How is team morale?
MM: I feel like we have good energy coming into practices. We have a young group and guys aren’t quitting or anything like that or have a bad attitude coming out to practice. We don’t have a ‘where do we go from here?’ kind of outlook. We got to go hard every single week and we just got to constantly keep on going at it. That’s what our attitude as a team is and that’s what we’re doing every single day.
TD: How long before Mike Martin leads the league in sacks?
MM: I say next year. It’s on next year. I’ve gone through the learning process. I’ve learned what I had to learn and my pass rushing coach really has been getting me on point so I’m looking forward to getting better with my pass rushing skills. And it all starts in the offseason, putting in work, get some dummy bags and really working because I know I can be good at that.
TD: Who’s your pick for Rookie of the Year?
MM: Honestly, I haven’t been paying to any rookies but myself.