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Kamal Martin learning from Christian Kirksey as he takes his rookie season ‘one day at a time’

The Packers’ 2020 fifth-round pick has impressed in practice so far.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers famously devote very few resources to their inside linebacker position. This offseason was no exception. Blake Martinez left in free agency, the recipient of a generous contract from the New York Giants. He was replaced with Christian Kirksey, a low-level free agent coming off two injury-marred seasons, and Kamal Martin, a fifth-round pick who battled injuries during his final collegiate campaign.

It’s early, but based on Martin’s performance alone, the Packers seem to have been justified in their moves. Martin has drawn repeated mention from beat reporters and coaches alike, even as he makes a difficult transition to the NFL amidst a pandemic.

How is he making the jump so quickly and effectively? In short, preparation.

“Whoever prepares himself and goes into things with the right mindset will eventually succeed,” Martin said, waxing philosophical in his post-practice conversation with reporters Tuesday.

“It’s a lot of mental work. I always say 90% of this game is mental and 10% is physical. The more you know between the lines, the more it will be beneficial on the field”

Martin’s mental acuity hasn’t always been a strength of his game. Draft analysts openly questioned his ability to quickly diagnose plays and react, but Martin hasn’t shown issues with that in training camp so far. And yes, it’s only training camp, but Martin says he’s doing all he can to prepare off the field, buoyed by a linebacker room that prides itself on teaching and sharing knowledge.

Christian Kirksey, in particular, has helped Martin. Kirksey played under Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine when Pettine was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and has a leg up on his teammates when it comes to implementing Pettine’s scheme. Martin says Kirksey has been happy to share what he knows.

“[Kirksey] has meant a lot. He’s a very smart, intellectual player. He knows how to move, the ins and outs of various offenses,” Martin said. “He’s done a great job of helping out the whole linebacker group with a lot of things, including simple things. You have to put a lot of detail into the simple things.”

That’s exactly how it should be, as far as Martin is concerned. If football is a team game, he says teammates owe it to each other to be as prepared as possible — and to help others do the same.

“Our job every single day is to get better, and if you’re not getting better, you’re not helping the team.”