Allen Park – The Detroit Lions' players have clearly been instructed not to talk about the past, with the common refrain being, “Last year is last year.” That’s just fine with punter Sam Martin, who had a season he’d prefer to forget.
A fifth-round draft pick in 2013, Martin established himself as one of the top punters in the NFL in 2016. He had the best season in Lions history, finishing second in the league with a 44.2-yard net average. But his momentum was derailed by a freak offseason foot injury while vacationing last summer, which caused him to miss training camp and the first six weeks of the regular season.
Once he returned, he was unable to regain the previous year’s form, showing an uncharacteristic lack of consistency. His net average plummeted nearly seven yards and his control slipped, resulting in twice as many touchbacks despite 21 fewer boots.
“Obviously, (the injury) had something to do with it, but that’s officially in the past now,” Martin said. “I got through the season, did what I could and now it’s all 2018.”
Martin is fully healthy again, and he's been back to booming punts during the offseason program, routinely sending the ball 50-plus yards with elite hang time.
“I’m feeling good,” Martin said. “I’m going through my progressions like I do every year. I started a little earlier this year, for obvious reasons. But I feel like I’m in a pretty good place right now, just trying to get better every day. I’ve still got X amount of days to get ready for the season, so just going through my normal progression, feeling good and continuing to get better. That’s the name of the game right now.”
Kickers and punters are creatures of habit and their routines are critical to their success. Martin said he has a renewed appreciation for this time of year and its importance to laying the foundation for the upcoming season.
“It’s extremely important,” he said. “This is the time when you can toy with stuff, figure stuff out, get comfortable with rushes, get comfortable with snaps. A lot of that stuff you don’t get when you’re (working out) on your own. This is your comfort time, when you get in your zone, get in your rhythm. When you come back in July, you have to be prepared because you have a couple weeks then you’re in a game. Right now is when you start building your foundation and it’s imperative.”
Martin, 28, is entering the second season of a four-year extension he signed in 2016.