Sam Martin likened his 2017 regular-season debut Sunday night vs. Pittsburgh to that of a first preseason game. There was some good and some bad as the fifth-year veteran works his way back into playing form after missing the first six games with an ankle injury.
Martin came off the NFI list last week in time to debut against Pittsburgh, and it was a mixed bag for Martin. He averaged 50.0 yards on his first two attempts, and pushed all six of his kickoffs deep into the end zone for touchbacks. But he also shanked his third punt off the side of his foot for 19 yards. We haven't seen those kinds of mistakes from Martin since his rookie season in 2013.
"I was happy," Martin said of his performance. "Obviously I had the one mishit. I'm chalking that up as just a rookie mistake, if you will – just getting back in there and rushing myself. I have to let that one go.
"My first two punts, I was very pleased with. And I had six touchbacks. So overall, obviously, that third punt was not very effective, but I'm just happy to be back. It felt good to be back there."
Martin and the Lions took advantage of all six weeks of him being on NFI to get 100 percent ready to roll after he hurt himself in early July off the field. Martin didn't disclose how he injured himself, other than to say it was a freak thing, and not related to some of the internet rumors that were floating around.
All of that is behind Martin now, and he's simply looking forward to the next nine games and trying to be a factor in helping the Lions to a return visit to the playoffs.
Martin, the NFC alternate for the Pro Bowl last year, finished last season with a 44.2 net punting average as he re-set the Lions record for net punting average in a season. He also set a career single-season high with a gross punting average of 48.5, which ranks as the second-best single-season tally by a Lions punter in team history.