Night net Curtis Martin was never known for being outspoken during his Hall of Fame career with the Patriots and Jets. He always let his play do the talki
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SN Exclusive: Hall of Famer Curtis Martin talks Night net flag protests, concussions and more


SN Exclusive: Hall of Famer Curtis Martin talks Night net flag protests, concussions and more

Night net Curtis Martin was never known for being outspoken during his Hall of Fame career with the Patriots and Jets. He always let his play do the talking. On Thursday, the first day of the Night net's 2016 regular season, Martin sounded off to Sporting News on some of the league's biggest topics. (Ed.: Questions and answers lightly edited for clarity.)SPORTING NEWS: There's a parallel between the 1999 Jets and Vinny Testaverde falling to injury in the first game of the season and Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings this year. What does that do to a team mentally, when you're potential a Super Bowl contender and your QB goes down? WEEK 1 PICKS: Straight up | Against the spreadCURTIS MARTIN: It's somewhat demoralizing, but there's that instinctive competitive nature that you have that says no matter what, you have to get the job done. Our situation, I felt like the team never gave up, but I felt like everyone on the team had a reality check every once in a while. I know we're hoping for the best, and we want to go to the Super Bowl, but what's the reality with our quarterback? You have to fight off those thoughts. I remember our next quarterback came in, and it just was not a good game. And the next game was not a good game. And most of the season wasn't a good game, and we finally hit our stride with Ray Lucas with the second half of the season. But it's somewhat demoralizing, knowing that (your quarterback) would be of the main reasons you make it to the Super Bowl. (The Jets finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.)   SN: Given your workload as a running back, was there a lot of added pressure on you? Could you see that happening to Adrian Peterson?CM: The thing is, with Adrian Peterson, all he has to do is be himself. That guy is so incredible, that just being himself, he's going to do what he needs to do. He's had enough pressure on him in other ways, that I'm sure he's fine dealing with this pressure. I don't think it puts more pressure on him. I think it puts more focus on the team. You have to come together in ways you didn't have to previously. You have to depend on that person next to you that much more. You have to make that block that much better. You have to sustain that run that much longer, because you know you're missing a crucial element of your team.MORE: Fantasy RB rankings for Week 1SN: Do you think the added focus on Peterson will take a toll on him at some point? Do you think this will fuel him?CM: I don't think Adrian Peterson would view it as added focus. I think any time you have Adrian Peterson on your team, he's always the focus. It's hard for me to think of more of a threat in a game than Adrian Peterson in the Night net. You have Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and these guys as quarterbacks. But if you take away the quarterback position, I don't know anyone that's that much of a threat in every game. Maybe J.J. Watt.SN: Obviously, Peterson was a first-round draft pick. But in recent years, teams have been finding talented running backs in every round of the draft. Do you think that the running back position is getting deeper, or does the round still dictate talent appropriately?CM: I'm actually glad I wasn't picked in the first round (Martin was drafted in the third round, 74th overall, by the Pats in 1995). It worked out better for me that way. Running back is one of the most instinctive positions on the field. You can't teach a person to be a running back. That's just something that they have to have the ability to do. You just have to have that instinct that moves away from someone reaching towards you. It's almost like being a boxer in a sense.SN: Switching gears . . . Colin Kaepernick. Whether you agree or disagree is one thing, but from a purely football standpoint, would you as a teammate view this as a distraction?CM: It would depend on the team that I was playing on. If I was on a very young team, then yes. If I was on a very mature team, then no. It depends on the leadership of the team. There are different factors that go into that. Listen, I don't think it's as black-and-white as 'Is it a distraction?' With the right people around you, I think you can actually use it as a motivation.MORE: College teammate of Kaepernick kneels before Panthers-BroncosSN: It would probably be difficult for a first-year coach in San Francisco like Chip Kelly, who's trying to leave his mark on the team. Do you think what Colin Kaepernick did had anything to do with his benching?CM: I don't think so. Being in a high-profile position, when you make a move like that, you've already considered most of the consequences. You really know that you're sticking your neck out. You have to have a conviction that goes beyond all selfishness, in a sense. To stand up under what he's had to put himself through, by doing this, to sacrifice the potential of his future earnings, the family ridicule that he'll get, the risk of his reputat

ion. This is basically putting his entire life, the rest of his life, he'll be remembered for this. You have to have a conviction that goes way beyond having some type of attitude because you're sitting on the bench.SN: Has there ever been a time, whether with the Jets or the Patriots, when you've had a teammate protest like Kaepernick has?CM: The thing that was, to me, comparable to it, was 9/11. 9/11 happened, we came in to practice on Wednesday. At that time, it was business as normal. We were supposed to play the games that Sunday. We were supposed to fly to Oakland, because we were playing the Raiders. Vinny and I were the captains of the team. I remember Vinny, at the beginning of the team meeting, he stood up and he said, 'Listen, guys. I'm from New York. I've had people who were very close to me lose their lives in this 9/11 attack. I don't feel right playing this week. I want you guys to know, I don't want to be a distraction to the team. I just want you guys to know that I won't be on that flight.' For me as a co-captain, it was like, if Vinny doesn't do anything, I don't think any of us should. Because Vinny took that stance, we told the owner, we told the head coach, we're not playing, regardless. And we were all on one page. 'If you want to take our paychecks, then take them.' It's like Kaepernick is. The owner went to the commissioner, and to the league, that we weren't going to play. And they were still trying to force us to play, and we wouldn't. And other teams started hearing about what we did, and they started participating, and so on, and so on.SN: It's interesting you mention that, because the Seahawks are talking about protesting the national anthem as a team now. While what Kaepernick did was an individual thing, do you think that it's wise for teams as a whole to take a stand on such a divisive topic?CM: One of the things that I would prefer, and I want to reinforce that this is just my opinion, that if they're going to do it, that it doesn't happen on 9/11, because it's such a patriotic day. I don't mind protests, but for that day, and all that it means and everything, maybe do it the following week. But again, that's just my opinion.MORE: 'The League' star lied about being in WTC on 9/11SN: (Jets backup QB) Geno (Smith) had his jaw broken last year. Do you think his issues on and off the field are more polarizing, or is he the type of player you can rally around?CM: Players are like almost like water. As a player, your mentality is, you get in where you fit in, you do what you have to do, because that's your job. A lot of other things can go on, but at the end of the day, you have to do your job, and you keep it moving. Especially in the Night net, where the things and the way you condition yourself to do, and the way you condition yourself to think, is that no one person stops this team. One person goes down, the next one steps up. And for the Jets, it worked out, because you end up getting (Ryan) Fitzpatrick, and he ends up having one of his best years. And now he's poised to have another good year. That's just the way it works.SN: You mention Fitzpatrick. Vinny was a kind of journeyman quarterback, then he found a home with New York. With Fitzpatrick, it's the same sort of thing. What are some similarities you see between the two?CM: As far as size and style, I see them as opposites. But what they do have in common, is that the team is willing to rally around them. The team really believes in them. When Fitzpatrick was a free agent, you heard a lot about the team really wanting him to get signed. They weren't like, 'If it doesn't happen it doesn't happen.' Players wanted Fitz to come back. That's the same type of impact that Vinny had on the team, which I think is one of the most important qualities as a quarterback.SN: You are working a lot with head injuries. Can you speak more on what you're doing?CM: One of my companies out of Israel, what we're able to do is diagnose concussions. Even today and in today's game, there's no way to objectively diagnose concussions. It's all done subjectively. You know, 'Follow my finger' or 'Remember these words,' or 'Count backwards,' just to see if your memory is working. What we do, we have an objective test that lets you know, whether you feel like it or not, we can tell you if your brain is healthy enough to be out there on the field.MORE: Former player's book helps him relive lost momentsSN: With that being said, and what you're doing with your company, what do you feel the Night net can do to really tackle the head injury issue?CM: The Night net would be foolish not to. I personally know, from being involved, all that they're doing. The concussion issue is really a huge part of the salvation of the game of football. It would be absolutely foolish for them not to put every effort into resolving the issue that they can. I think that they are doing that. The only problem is, there is no real solution for concussions. What I've learned is that concussions don't happen because you bang your head, as much as they happen because of acceleration and deceleration. If you're going really fast and something brings you to an immediate stop, that's what causes your brain to hit your skull, and gives you a concussion. Yeah, it doesn't help that you're banging your head against someone else's head going full speed. What the Night net is doing, is that they're making the players so much more aware, and now they're protecting the players against themselves. I was the type of player that, I wouldn't be able to see for a few steps, and I wouldn't let them know that I was injured. But with the awareness that they're supplying the players with, is not only making the person that suffers a concussion more aware, but now his teammates are more aware. Now teammates speak up when a player is trying to tough it out. There were times were I was so dazed that I didn't even realize I was injured. They have the spotters up in the booth with binoculars, always looking someone who has a little wooziness or if their steps aren't right. The referees are more aware of it. I think that's the best the Night net can do right now, and I think they've done a good job of it.SN: OK, last question: Did Tom Brady deserve it?CM: (Laughing) I don't know all the facts. When you have a situation like that, the commissioner has all the facts. I just trust that they're fair people, and that they're going to make the best decision.Curtis Martin is in partnership with Verizon, which is giving Night net fans more access than ever with its new LTE Advance service. LTE Advance allows Night net fans to stream live games 50 percent faster than other providers.

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