Monday was the start of the 2013 season for the Miami Dolphins.
It was the first day since last season's Super Bowl champion was crowned that Miami players returned to the club's Davie, FL. facility and started doing things to make themselves better in 2013.
There was weight lifting. There was running. I suppose there was some bonding in the locker room.
It was a start.
And it was very important for Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.
Martin will be in his second season with the Dolphins in 2013. And he might also be in the spotlight. You see, if Jake Long does what many expect and goes to a new team the next couple of weeks, Martin immediately becomes Miami's new starting left tackle.
He will be charged with protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side.
The job isn't new to Martin who played that very position the final month of 2012 while Long was finishing up on injured reserve for the second consecutive season. And Martin was something of a pleasant surprise in that he played as well or better on the left side than he did on the right side because the left seems to be his more natural position.
Indeed, Martin's play the final few weeks at left tackle might be the reason people in the Dolphins personnel department aren't actually giving birth to a cow over the idea of Long departing -- because, again, Martin held the position down without major incident.
(A major incident is defined as Tannehill's head being decapitated).
But if Long is indeed going to leave, the Dolphins need more out of Martin than him simply not stinking. They need him to win at that spot. He didn't do that nearly enough in his short tenure at LT. (He didn't really do it much at RT but that's not the point here).
In other words, the Dolphins need Jonathan Martin to go from a C-plus NFL left tackle to a solid B or B-plus player at that elite spot.
And to do that Martin needs to be a horse this offseason. His somewhat pear-shaped body needs some shredding and remolding. He's carrying 312 pounds on his 6-5 frame. So he's a big man. But he needs to get stronger in both the upper body and the lower body. His core is also weak or at least he sometimes plays like that.
So Martin needs to eat some nails for breakfast every morning and get in the weight room and morph. He'll have no better opportunity to do it than this offseason while he's still young, while he's still green, while he still has the giant leap of rookie to second-year player ahead of him -- the leap that often sees the greatest amount of improvement in NFL players.
If Martin can do that, some within the Dolphins organization believe Martin has the makings of a fine left tackle.
The question is will he do it?
Does Martin have the desire to do it? Is he willing to sacrifice the hours and effort it will take to remake his body? Will he work at it even though the stadium lights are not turned on? In short, is he willing to do something that he obviously has not yet done in his development as a football player?
That's the key question.
I don't know the answer. I don't know Martin very well, so I cannot tell you if he's willing to put in the work.
But I do know this kid is very smart. I do know he has a little bit of a nasty streak in him on the field. I do know he's been told he needs to get stronger to get better. And I do know he has said he understands.
But again, the distance between understanding what must be done and actually doing it is often the distance between being average and very good.
The Dolphins, by the way, have a grand advantage on this point. They see Martin every day. They will know if he's attending the workouts religiously. They will be able to measure his progress or lack thereof. They will know if Martin is walking the path to improvement or taking detours through the Burger King drivethru.
And that knowledge, I suppose, will be used to help determine their course in replacing Long if he goes. If Martin becomes a workhorse this offseason, then I'd expect the Dolphins will breathe a sigh of relief in knowing they have a viable replacement for Long already on the roster.
If, however, Martin stumbles, if he misses workouts or doesn't really LIFT when he's supposed to be lifting, then the team needs to consider other options. And Miami will need to do that in the coming weeks.
It's on the Dolphins. It's on Jonathan Martin.
The season has begun in earnest.