Newly retired Ravens special teams ace and defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. loved playing for Don “Wink” Martindale, who was recently let go as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, but Levine understands that movement is inevitable in the business of football.
Martindale was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator from 2018-2021. His defenses ranked fourth, fifth and ninth in the NFL from 2018-2020, respectively, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA measure. That ranking dropped to 28th in 2021, a year filled with injuries and instability.
Martindale had one year remaining on his contract. In announcing that the Ravens and Martindale were moving in separate directions, head coach John Harbaugh said that “sometimes the moment comes, and it’s the right time.” Levine knows all about the business of football and will always appreciate working with Martindale.
“I think he’s one of the best coordinators in the league who deserves a head coaching job,” Levine said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 24. “… He let us be us, go out there and play ball. He’s aggressive. We love him. Unfortunately, the way this business is, things like that happen, maybe disagreements, whatever it may be. For us players, we love Wink. He was one of us. He embraced us, we embraced him.”
Levine, 34, played mostly special teams during his career in Baltimore (146 regular-season games from 2012-2021), but he did play 27 percent of defensive snaps in 2018 and 17 percent in 2019, so he has worked closely with Martindale. The 2021 season was a challenging one for Martindale, who lost cornerback L.J. Fort and cornerback Marcus Peters before the season began and lost cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety DeShon Elliott along the way as well.
The Ravens were strong against the run as usual in 2021, but they allowed 278.9 yards per game through the air, last in the league. Baltimore’s struggles against high-end quarterbacks are perhaps best crystallized by what Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow did in two games against the Ravens — 941 yards, seven touchdowns and one pick.
Regardless of any struggles in 2021, Martindale will be missed in the building. Levine compared Martindale leaving to Tony Jefferson, Matthew Judon and Eric Weddle moving on in past years.
“You make friends with these guys. We become family and then all the sudden the next chapter happens for them and for us,” said Levine, who is staying with the team in a scouting and coaching assistant role. “The roster’s not going to be the same next year as it was this year. It’s going to be new guys on the roster. There are going to be guys on the roster that made it last year that aren’t going to make it this year, so it’s the same thing. … Wink knows how much we love him, how much we care about him.”
For more from Levine, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Levine on his retirement, listen to his Jan. 27 interview with GCR here:
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