Don “Wink’’ Martindale has the look of a guy who welcomes a fight on any day — and especially on Sundays.
Martindale, the first-year Giants defensive coordinator, has a gruff demeanor about him that’s accentuated by a scowl and a graying goatee. He’s got a stocky build accentuated by some girth around his midsection. In short, he doesn’t look like a guy you want to mess with.
It’s perfectly fitting went to college at a place called Defiance College in Ohio.
When Martindale stepped to the podium Monday morning for a short session with reporters, his body language made it clear there were at least a dozen other places he’d rather be.
It wasn’t, in any way, that he was uncooperative or rude. Martindale was perfectly accommodating. But, if you have any ability to read a room, you can tell when you’re around someone who’d rather be doing something else. And Martindale would rather have been somewhere else — more specifically evaluating the defensive players on his roster and scheming up his trademark aggressive defenses.
The only shame about the time during which reporters had access to Martindale was that it was before practice, where an old-school brawl would later break out between his defensive players retaliating against the offense for some chippy play.
Martindale surely delighted in what he saw when his defensive players came to the defense of each other after running back Saquon Barkley lowered his left shoulder and lit into cornerback Aaron Robinson.
Things escalated on the next two plays when Robinson went for a hard stop and then linebacker Tae Crowder threw running back Antonio Williams to the ground after a carry, emptying the sidelines into a melee.
These things happen in training camp — particularly when the players are practicing in temperatures hovering near 100 degrees, which has been the case for days.
During warmups at the start of practice, Giants head coach Brian Daboll stopped to chat with a few reporters and indicated that his players were tired and cranky from the work and the heat, but that he was still planning to work them hard as they prepare for their first preseason game Thursday night at the Patriots.
So perhaps the player scuffle on Monday was somewhat expected — if not scripted.
“This is my ninth year, my ninth training camp, and I’ve never not seen one of these days,’’ Giants defensive tackle Justin Ellis told The Post after practice. “Eventually, there is a boiling point. We’re all alpha males. Football is made up of a majority of alpha males.’’
That includes Martindale, who had to be loving watching his defensive players stand up for each other.
“As a defense, Wink wants us all to back each other up,’’ safety Julian Love said. “As long as we have each other’s back, and we’re going to ride with each other. That what makes up great defenses.’’
Love said Martindale “wants to see’’ the kind of fight the players showed on Monday “but in a smart way.’’
“He wants to see how we respond,’’ Love said. “Things got intense for a minute, but we responded well. You defend your guys, that’s what it comes down to.’’
Martindale — who’s 59 and was with the Ravens from 2012-21 first as linebackers coach (2012-17) and then defensive coordinator (2018-21) — has a chance to make a name for this Giants defense with his aggressive schemes coupled with the influx of talent brought in during the offseason, beginning with pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, the fifth-overall pick in April’s draft.
Martindale’s biggest challenge is going to be employing his aggressive pressure style designed to free up pass rushers while not being burned by a largely unproven cornerback group that’s not a strength of the team.
Martindale is big on building camaraderie among his defensive players. On Monday, he spoke about how he runs “a different style meeting than everybody else,’’ adding, “I want people talking. I ask them about their family and how they’re 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 work out problems.’’
Love called those meetings “pretty fun,’’ referencing defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson playing music as the players enter and Martindale occasionally dancing.
Yes, Martindale dancing.
“When the mood’s right,’’ Love said. “It’s a bit rough. He’s not the best. But we want energy from our coordinator and we’ve got that.’’
Ellis, who played three seasons under Martindale in Baltimore, said what Martindale asks of his players is simple.
“He just wants us to play smart, aggressive and with great effort, bring it to the offense,’’ he said. “Let the offense know they’re in for a long day.’’
That message was delivered during Monday’s practice — to the delight of the gruff defensive coordinator.
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