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Carolina Panthers

Martin meets challenge head-on


CHARLOTTE - When the Panthers visited the Indianapolis Colts three days after Thanksgiving last year, seeking a road win for the first time in nearly two years, Panthers free safety Sherrod Martin was thankful for second chances.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Martin couldn't complete an open-field tackle attempt that turned into a 56-yard touchdown for Reggie Wayne and brought the Colts within striking distance. But in the final seconds, with the Colts threatening to tie the score, Martin secured an interception off a tipped ball and managed to keep his toes inside the back line of the end zone to secure the victory.

"The Indy game, we finished strong," Martin said. "When you're in that position, you have to finish. That's the biggest thing we're working on this year – finishing."

Martin certainly feels like he has some unfinished business of his own after an up-and-down season typified by the Colts game. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions, but his tackle total in his second season as a starter took a hit, some of it attributable to missed tackles like the one against Wayne.

"Everything that happened last year, we're putting it behind," Martin said. "Whatever mistakes were made, you learn from them and move on.

"We're all working toward the same goal. We're all getting better together."

With the majority of Organized Team Activities in the books – the Panthers will hold their 10th and final OTA session Thursday – Martin has made steady progress.

"Sherrod's done some really nice things," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's a really athletic safety that moves very well, and having an opportunity to spend a little more time in the classroom has really helped him.

"He's an aggressive young player that learned some valuable lessons. The best thing that happened to Sherrod last year was that he played."


Martin, a second-round draft pick out of Troy in 2009, might not have always felt that way while starting all 16 games for a defense that allowed twice as many touchdown passes (28) as it had interceptions (14).

Following a solid first season as a starter, he got a harsh reminder that playing safety in the NFL is no safe bet.

Make a tackle downfield on a ballcarrier, and fans may be too busy bemoaning a 20-yard gain to appreciate that it didn't turn into a 60-yard touchdown.

Miss a tackle on a ballcarrier, and there's nobody there to make amends on your behalf the way you often do for others following their missed tackles.

"When you're the last line of defense, you're not always going to get the big hit," said Martin, who has a reputation for big hits but also has suffered through some big misses. "You've got to play smart and get the ballcarrier down to give the defense a chance to line up for another play."

Decision making has been a focus of OTAs for the safeties – a group that has added talent since last season.

Martin and Charles Godfrey are back as the incumbent starters, as are reserves Jordan Pugh and Jonathan Nelson. The team also drafted D.J. Campbell and added free agents Haruki Nakamura – who backed up Ed Reed in Baltimore the last four years – and Reggie Smith, who started on and off for San Francisco the last four years.

"We've got some talented guys," Martin said. "Everyone's out there every day, working on fundamentals. We're communicating well with each other.

"We talk with each other about what we're seeing, and we're really coming together as a group."

And Martin hopes to come along as an individual.

"I'm very excited and ready to go," he said.

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