Don “Wink” Martindale looks like the type of guy who welcomes a fight every day — and especially on Sundays.
Martindale, the Giants’ first-year defensive coordinator, has a gruff demeanor accented by a scowl and a graying goatee. He has a stocky build accented by some girth around his midsection. In short, he doesn’t look like a guy to mess with.
It’s a perfect fit that I went to college in Ohio at a place called Defiance College.
As Martindale took to the podium for a brief session with reporters Monday morning, his body language made it clear there were at least a dozen other places he’d rather be.
It wasn’t that he was being uncooperative or rude at all. Martindale was perfectly accommodating. But if you have the ability to read a room, you can tell when you’re around someone who would rather be doing something else. And Martindale would have preferred to be elsewhere — more specifically, to evaluate the defensive players in his roster and plan his signature aggressive defense.
The only shame about the time reporters had access to Martindale was that it was before practice, where an old-school brawl later broke out between his defensive players, who retaliated for a chippy game against offense.
Martindale was certainly delighted with what he saw as his defensive players defended each other after Saquon Barkley ran back, dropping his left shoulder and hitting cornerback Aaron Robinson.
Don Martindale oversees practice at Giants training camp. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
Things escalated over the next two games when Robinson made a hard stop and then knocked down linebacker Tae Crowder running back Antonio Williams after a carry and dumped the sideline into a melee.
These things happen in training camp – especially when the players train in temperatures around 100 degrees, which has been the case for days.
During warm-ups early in practice, Giants head coach Brian Daboll stopped to chat with some reporters and implied that his players were tired and grumpy from work and the heat, but he still planned to push them hard train as they prepare for their first preseason game Thursday night with the Patriots.
Perhaps Monday’s player banter was somewhat expected – if not scripted.
“This is my ninth year, my ninth training camp, and I’ve never missed one of those days,” Giants defensive tackle Justin Ellis told The Post after practice. “There comes a point when there is a boiling point. We are all alpha males. Football is mostly alpha males.”
That includes Martindale, who must have loved watching his defensive players stand up for one another.
“In defence, Wink wants us all to support each other,” said security guard Julian Love. “As long as we have each other’s backs and ride together. That makes for great defenses.”
Love said Martindale “wanted to see the kind of fight” the players put on on Monday “but in a smart way”.
A brawl broke out at Giants training camp on Monday. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
“He wants to see how we respond to that,” Love said. “Things got intense for a minute but we reacted well. You defend your boys, that’s what matters.”
Martindale — who is 59 and was with the Ravens from 2012-21, first as a linebacker coach (2012-17) and then as a defensive coordinator (2018-21) — has a chance to come clean with his aggressive plans in conjunction with the Making a Name for These Giants in Defense The offseason brought plenty of talent, starting with passrusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, the fifth pick overall in the April draft.
Martindale’s biggest challenge will be using his aggressive pressure style to free pass rushers without getting burned by a largely unproven cornerback group that isn’t a team’s forte.
Martindale places a strong emphasis on building camaraderie among its defensive players. On Monday, he spoke about how he “runs a different meeting than everyone else,” adding, “I want people to talk. I ask her about her family and how they are doing. It’s a process and you get a defense that comes together because they all know each other and they’re not afraid to communicate, they’re not afraid to solve problems.
Love called these gatherings “pretty funny,” referring to defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, who played music when the players entered, and Martindale, who danced occasionally.
Yes, Martindale dances.
“If the mood is right,” Love said. “It’s a little rough. He’s not the best. But we want energy from our coordinator and we have it.”
Ellis, who played under Martindale at Baltimore for three seasons, said what Martindale asks of its players is simple.
“He just wants us to be smart, aggressive and go on the offensive with great effort,” he said. “Let the offensive know they have a long day ahead.”
The news was delivered during Monday’s training session – to the gruff defensive coordinator’s delight.