GREEN BAY - It’s hard to play football with blood flooding your eyes. Vision is important. Never mind the obvious discomfort.
That’s one lesson Green Bay Packers rookie linebacker Blake Martinez has learned early in his first season.
His nose busted open during practice before the Packers traveled to Minnesota for their second game. A week later, Martinez said, the blood gushed so bad it obscured his vision.
Over their bye week, the Packers’ equipment staff tweaked Martinez’s helmet. Martinez said they pumped more air into the interior padding and tightened the chin strap, trying to ensure it would not slip down and crack open his nose. Martinez was “extremely confident” they fixed the problem.
Then he tackled New York Giants running back Orleans Darkwa in the second quarter. Martinez dabbed his finger to his nose and saw blood.
“I think it was just the way I hit the guy,” Martinez said. “My helmet just barely, slightly came down. I think it barely touched it, and just that little impact. Because it’s not fully healed yet. That little impact just popped it open a little bit.
“We thought we had it all figured out on making sure it wouldn’t happen again, but my helmet just came down. It barely tapped it, and it just opened up on the right side.”
On the sideline, the Packers medical staff glued shut the bridge of Martinez’s nose. He said the bleeding stopped by the next series. Yet Martinez played only 15 snaps Sunday night, barely 25 percent. Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas split 41 snaps apiece, consuming three-quarters of the playing time.
It was the fewest snaps Martinez has played this season. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Martinez’s nose didn’t keep him off the field.
“Our plan was to roll those three guys through,” Capers said. “Joe’s been our dime linebacker so in situations that we felt were throwing or matchup situations, then Joe is our matchup guy.”
Slowly, Martinez’s nose is getting better. He also has experience playing through it. In college, Martinez said, the bridge of his nose split open once.
Martinez wore an extra-large helmet at Stanford. With the Packers, he downgraded to large. A snug fit will be key to preventing his nose from splitting open.
“It’s more just the annoying factor to have to deal with it again,” Martinez said, “or have to sit out and worry about it on the sideline when the game is going on. Because you obviously want to pay attention to situations and things like that. Overall, it doesn’t really affect me. I think when it happened in the Detroit game, I had blood in my eyes and stuff. So that kind of was annoying, but other than that.”