Giants players move on after unusual Blake Martinez release: ‘We in a crazy business’￼
Popular Giants linebacker Blake Martinez was released last week and teammates were left to wonder what happened. (John Minchillo/AP)
Giants players felt for Blake Martinez on Tuesday, but they stayed in their lane and wouldn’t speculate on what the linebacker’s recent release meant.
“With Blake’s situation, he’s a hell of a player,” veteran edge rusher Jihad Ward said in the locker room. “We wish that it wasn’t like that, but we all know how this business stuff go[es]. We [are] in a crazy business. That’s all I can say on that one. Still love him to this day. That’s still our brother. Whatever team he goes to, I hope he’s successful.”
Quarterback Daniel Jones, whose Giants career depends on winning games this fall, steered clear of comment on the release of a two-time captain who made this team better.
“I don’t think it’s my position to comment on it,” Jones said. “I think there’s a lot going on in those situations. And that’s Blake’s business. That’s Joe Schoen’s and [Brian Daboll’s] business. So I’m not really gonna comment on it. But it’s our job to focus on the guys here and make sure, especially as leaders, that we’re ready to go. And I think we are.”
Kicker Graham Gano, 35, a captain on special teams entering his 13th season, said the NFL can almost numb you to the business’ harsh reality over time – but that doesn’t make it easy.
“The longer you play, the more normal it gets,” Gano said. “When you’re young, you don’t understand the big picture of the NFL. I don’t think it makes it easy seeing friends get released. You’re thankful for the friends you made. Unfortunately the game doesn’t last forever.”
It still doesn’t feel like the full story of Martinez’s release has been told yet, though. The timing and logic of it were not normal.
NFL teams don’t often cut good players unless there is some mitigating factor, such as major salary cap savings for the team or off-field issues. But Martinez got $2 million guaranteed from the Giants to take a pay cut to stay in the spring, and his release saved negligible money.
Martinez made the roster through cutdown day. He was excused from the next day’s practice due to personal reasons. Then he practiced and was cut last Thursday afternoon, hours after GM Joe Schoen had said “we like the guys that are here, the 53 players that are on the roster.”
If it truly was a mutual separation, where both Martinez and the Giants agreed it wasn’t a fit, why didn’t coach Brian Daboll just confirm that when asked about the move on Monday?
That would have made for a cleaner — albeit still unusually timed — break.
“I’m not going to get into why release, why we didn’t release, where he’s at,” Daboll said on a Zoom call. “That’s how we’re going to handle our stuff here in terms of our releases. Wish Blake the best and looking forward to moving on to this week.”
Ward, 28, who is on his fifth team in seven seasons, said that “in this culture, we don’t really control what’s going on upstairs. We just enjoy the moments that we have.”
“We control what’s going on in this locker room,” Ward said. “This is a team sport. So whenever they made a decision, they made their decision. I can’t go upstairs and say, ‘Nah, we need Blake back!’ I can’t do that. I gotta do what I gotta do to make the team win. But we will see him soon and whatever team he goes to, he will be successful.”
Journeyman Austin Calitro, 28, who had two interceptions in an impressive preseason, is now listed as a starting inside linebacker alongside Tae Crowder on the Giants’ Week 1 depth chart.
Defensive coordinator Don Martindale is scheduled to speak on Wednesday. The Giants have to stop Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry in Sunday’s season opener in Nashville. Martinez could have helped them do that.
“One play can change your life, or certain seasons can change your life,” Ward said. “With that being said, we’ll see him soon, and he’s gonna remember some good times. And we’re not gonna leave this league with regret. We’re gonna keep living. So
“I been bounced around plenty of times,” Ward added. “”I already know how that stuff feels. All I can say is enjoy this shit. Enjoy every bit of it.”
THIBODEAUX, OJULARI IFFY
Edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux (sprained right MCL) and Azeez Ojulari (calf) were on the practice field, but Thibodeaux didn’t have pads on. And both seem unlikely to play in Week 1.
“I don’t know,” Thibodeaux said. “It could really go either way. We’re just waiting to see where it is when the time comes … You’ve got to accept however we go… [I’ll be] giving in any way I can, realizing that if I am not able to play, if I’m there, then I have to be engaged and I have to help my team – contribute to the win.”
Thibodeaux said he has spoken to Bengals tight end Thaddeus Moss and is “not really worried” about the past or the low block that injured him in the preseason. He said of waving the cart off and leaving the field under his own power: “I wasn’t gonna look crazy goin’ off. I gotta go out like a ‘G.’ SLAYTON ABSENT FROM PRACTICE
Wide receiver Darius Slayton was not at Tuesday’s practice. He was the only player on the Giants’ active roster who wasn’t on the field. The team said it was an excused absence but provided no further information or context.
That’s noteworthy because of what happened with Martinez last week: he was excused from practice last Wednesday and suddenly released after practice on Thursday.
Slayton, 25, also has been a trade candidate and possible salary cap casualty. And he was listed as the last of seven receivers on the team’s Week 1 depth chart. So this bears watching.
Another depth chart note: Ben Bredeson was charted as the top left guard.
BIG CAT GETS RESTRUCTURE
The Giants restructured defensive tackle Leonard Williams’ contract on Monday, per The Athletic. They converted $17.88 million of his base salary into a signing bonus — and added a void year at the end of his deal — to create $11.92 million in team salary cap space for this season.
Schoen wants to clean up the Giants’ salary cap, not kick more money down the road. But he had to do this to make his strapped team cap compliant before Week 1 and to free some dollars to operate his team in the early season.
THE TURNOVER CONTINUES
Over Labor Day weekend, the Giants signed corner Fabian Moreau, wideout Marcus Johnson, and receiver/returner Kalil Pimpleton to their practice squad. To make room they cut wideout Jaylon Moore, corner Harrison Hand and receiver/returner C.J. Board from the practice squad. They also waived Austrian RB Sandro Platzgummer from the active roster. The Giants have an international exemption for Platzgummer and said the move was only procedural. Pimpleton appears to be in the kick return mix with Gary Brightwell and Richie James.