THE Winnipeg Blue Bombers are about to discover in a hurry whether their man Martin fits them to at tee.An ankle injury suffered by quarterback Kevin Glenn in Saturday’s 42-15 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders is much more serious than initially reported, meaning former University of Tennessee star Tee Martin will make his first Canadian Football League start for the Bombers Thursday night in their home opener against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Glenn was not at practice yesterday as he was having his left ankle examined by team doctors. But although Glenn finished the game after having it rolled up on by Roughriders defensive tackle Scott Schultz – he had it more heavily taped following the injury and toughed it out – he was not able to put any weight whatsoever on the joint after the game and was on crutches yesterday.
There is speculation Glenn will not only miss this week’s game against Edmonton, but also the July 7th home date against the Calgary Stampeders… and perhaps even longer.
As a result, Martin stepped in to take the majority of turns with the No. 1 offence and will now be backed up by Russ Michna and Spergon Wynn.
“I knew he got a little nicked in the game, but none of us knew how serious it was,” said Martin after a crisp practice yesterday. “I came in today and found out he was at the doctor’s office and wouldn’t be able to get back for practice. So… you never know when you’re going to get the call. Like they say, you’re only one hit away from getting in there so I’m always working to stay prepared.”
Now, although Martin has spent time with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Rhein Fire of NFL Europe – and won a NCAA championship with the Volunteers – he has played all of 11 plays since arriving in Winnipeg last September.
He dressed as the club’s third-string pivot after his arrival last year but did not see the field. And after tweaking his knee during camp earlier this month, did not play in either the club’s blue-white scrimmage or their first pre-season game in Edmonton against the Eskimos.
Martin made his Bomber debut in the club’s second exhibition game, but took only 11 snaps – completing three of five passes for 39 yards while rushing twice for 11 yards.
“Man, I’ll take as many reps as I can get,” said Martin. "I still consider myself a young player (he’s 26) and I’d like to get a whole lot of reps to get to know the receivers and our linemen. Sometimes, mentally, getting into the film room can speed up that process but there’s no substitute for being out there on the field playing.
“The more work I can get, the better I’ll be.”
Martin’s biggest claim to fame in football came back in the 1998 NCAA title game when he led the No. 1-ranked Vols to a 23-16 victory over the Florida State Seminoles, ranked second, in front of 84,470 fans at the Fiesta Bowl. He completed 11 of 18 passes in that game for two TDs and two interceptions.
He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2000 NFL draft and spent two years on their roster. But since then he’s bounced around looking for a football home, from the Fire to the Eagles and then to the Raiders before his release last fall.
And so, although he regularly suited up in front of crowds of 100,000 and millions on national TV, Martin can’t wait for the chance to get his jersey dirty in the Bombers home opener.
“They always say that if you don’t get nervous before a game you should stop playing,” said Martin. “I still love the game, I still love playing. After that first play I think I’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, Glenn’s injury is not the only one that may affect the starting lineup. Starting defensive halfback Cedric Dickerson has a broken bone in his left hand and, although he had it suited up in a playing cast, he’ll likely sit out against the Esks. Justin Coleman was working in his spot yesterday.