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Giants’ DC Wink Martindale ‘surprised’ by Xavier McKinney’s comments, says they ‘hurt the locker room’

Martindale says other veteran players assure him there is no overall problem

New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings
Wink Martindale
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said Thursday that he was “surprised” by safety Xavier McKinney’s comments after Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders about “not being heard.” Martindale, in his 19th season in the NFL and 36th in coaching, said that had never happened to him before.

Here is part of what McKinney said to Jordan Ranaan of ESPN:

I don’t think they’ve done a great job of letting the leaders lead, and listening to the leaders and the captains ... It was one of those things where you have some of your leaders, captains from a defensive standpoint, trying to switch things up. And just not really being heard.

Here was Martindale discussing his reaction to McKinney’s comments:

“It surprised me, because it’s the first time in my career that a player would make a statement like that,” Martindale said. “I think it was a case where the kid was just frustrated with losing. We spoke. We cleared it up. The example that he gave me of what he was talking about was an in-game adjustment. It really took a while for him to point out to me exactly what it was.

“What he explained to me was a coverage that we ran one time. He explained that to me afterward. I didn’t hear about it during the game. That’s another reason why it caught me by surprise.”

Martindale said he told McKinney those issues can’t be made public.

“I just told him that’s something that hurts the locker room, it hurts the defensive room when you say something like that. I understand about [Internet] clicks and all the things that you [reporters] do, and I respect your profession. But the example I used in front of him and the entire defense is when you make a statement like that it puts money in [the media’s] pockets and takes it out of ours.

“It was an emotional thing right after the game, and you just got to learn from it. So, we’re moving on.”

Head coach Brian Daboll and his staff have been lauded by players for valuing player input.

Martindale, who said he asks players each week to share concerns about the game plan or anything else bothering them, admitted the comments hurt him. He went back to the defensive leaders after McKinney’s comments to see if anyone share his concern.

“I end every meeting with, ‘Does anybody have anything? Any questions? Any concerns? Are we okay? (Are) your families okay?’ Because it’s a safe space, if you have something, say something. We like the plan. I check all the boxes and I mean it when I say it and we’ve had discussions and we’ve had some different personalities that have been in those rooms, that you’ve had discussions,” Martindale said. “And I think that’s a good thing, before the fact, before the game, those type of discussions. I said, ‘I mean it when I say it, so if you have something, say something.’

“I had to go back and talk to the leaders. And when I say leaders, you don’t have to have a ‘C’ on your chest to be a leader. I talked to the vets — A’Shawn (Robinson) and Nacho (Rakeem Nunez-Roches), Bobby (Okereke), all of them, and said, ‘Hey, is there something that we’re not discussing? Is there a problem here?’ And to a man, they said, ‘No.’“

Martindale was asked if McKinney would start this week, and indicated that is not up to him

“You are going to have to talk to Dabs (head coachoach Brian Daboll) about that,” Mrtindale said. “I haven’t had any discussions with he or (GM) Joe (Schoen) about it but as of right now, we are planning on him being in his usual role.”

McKinney is in the final year of his rookie contract and can be a free agent at season’s end.