For kickers and punters, like Detroit’s Matt Prater and Sam Martin, the weeks leading up to training camp and training camp itself are a vitally important time of the year. It's when they really ramp up their kicking regimen and get their timing down for the season.
Missing that time can have a serious effect on them, which we saw this season with Martin, who missed all of training camp and the first six games of the regular season due to injury.
“The time of year I missed in July and August is a very pivotal time for my strength and flexibility,” Martin said. “Camp, for a specialist -- camp and the preseason -- is valuable because you get those live reps in and get all that stuff out and get in your comfort zone and in rhythm.
“The thing I learned from all of this is how important that time is for me. That’s really what I think I missed.”
Martin injured his ankle off the field in early July, which forced him to miss all of training camp. The injury lingered into the regular season, which forced the Lions to put Martin on the NFI (non-football injury) list to start the year.
Martin returned after missing the first six games, but he never looked like the same player who was the first alternate to the Pro Bowl last season. Martin finished the season with career lows in punting average (43.4) and net punting average (37.6). He set career highs in average (48.5) and net (44.2) the year prior in 2016.
“If anything, I might start hitting some balls a little earlier, just because I don’t have a full season on my body,” Martin said of how he plans to attack this offseason. “So, I’m not going to take as much time off.”
But in terms of the offseason regimen itself, Martin plans to stick with the same routine that's made him one of the best punters in the NFL over the last few years.
“If it wasn’t for what happened, obviously, I had every intention of having a huge season this year,” he said. “I was feeling great in OTAs. It just derailed me a little bit, but as far as going into next season, it’s not even a thought in my mind I’m not going to be back to myself in August."
Martin says he plans to be much more careful this offseason in making sure he does nothing away from the football field that could keep him off it come July and August.
“I’m going to be back to myself,” Martin said. “It’s not even a question in my mind.”