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O'HARA: Martin not taking training camp for granted

Punter Sam Martin never realized how much he would miss participating in training camp until he had to be a spectator in the Detroit Lions' camp last year because of a foot injury.

Martin is back this year and healthy from day one, and he wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

There's no reason that after struggling through a 2017 season shortened to 10 games because of the recovery time from the injury that he shouldn't return to his 2016 form as one of the NFL's elite punters.

"Needless to say, I'm more grateful than ever, and more excited than ever," Martin said. "I just love being out here right now.

"I don't take it for granted."

View photos from Day 4 of 2018 Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage

At this time last year, Martin was on the non-football injury list because of the injury sustained in the period between the end of the official offseason workout program and the start of training camp.

He was unable to participate in camp, and he missed the first six games. When he returned, he did not perform close to his 2016 level. That year he finished fourth in the league with a gross average of 48.5 yards per punt and second in net with an average of 44.2.

In 10 games in 2017 he dropped to 43.4 yards in gross average and 37.8 in net. Both were career lows by far for his first five seasons as a Lion.

It's understandable that Martin wants to look forward and not dwell on a forgettable season.

"I officially turned that page," he said. "I feel better and more prepared than ever. I want to have a better year than last year – and better than in 2016."

Realistically, it's predictable that a player's performance at any position would suffer from missing camp and a substantial portion of the season. Taylor Decker, the Lions' left tackle, has said how much it hurt him to miss camp and the first six games of last season because of a shoulder injury.

The timing, adjustments and speed of the game require constant practice and preparation. Missing camp made it difficult for Martin to get in his comfort zone.

"It's really something that's hard to explain," Martin said. "More than anything, it proved how important and how pivotal this time of year is.

"I look at my season as a progression. Those are steps to getting me ready for September. I didn't get that last year. It's just tough. It's hard to prepare for an NFL game. It really is."

Punting looks like a simple job. It isn't. Martin seeks perfection in preparing to do his job.

"I'm always looking at ways to get better," he said. "It's not just catching and kicking. There are so many aspects that go into it. Every day, every year, I'm constantly trying to figure out what I have to do to get better. I'm always evaluating and analyzing myself.

"It's not always hang time, and it's not always distance. It's not just kick it high and far. There are a lot more clubs in the bag."

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