While no one was looking, Jonathan Martin became a football player again instead of a hot topic.
And the 49ers, as well as Martin, are the winners.
Last season, Martin, the former Stanford standout, became the center of a storm with the Miami Dolphins when it was reported that Martin believed he had been the subject of harassment by Miami lineman Richie Incognito.
In the aftermath, it was clear Martin’s future in Miami was past, and the Niners traded with the Dolphins to acquire him for a seventh-round pick and reunite him with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh – who just happens to have a no-hazing policy on his team.
Martin has settled in nicely in San Francisco, drawing very little attention now that he’s on a talent-laden team in an organization that has fully accepted him. Though the 49ers’ offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and there’s no way Martin will start in 2014 (barring an injury), Martin will provide a valuable backup and option for the future.
After all, he was a second-round pick and a two-year starter who played both left and right tackle in Miami, and he’s just 24.
This week, in the midst of the 49ers’ organized team activities (OTAs), Martin said he feels at home in the 49ers locker room.
“I’ve been around locker rooms for a long time,” Martin told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “So everything’s normal. It’s been real welcoming. So I’ve just been excited to be a part of the team.”
With the 49ers, Martin can back up both Joe Staley and Anthony Davis at the tackles, but will also likely get some work at guard, said Harbaugh.
Martin told Branch he’s just excited to get back practicing again after a recent illness when he lost 12 pounds off his 6-foot-5, 312-pound frame.
“You can’t get back in football shape unless you’re playing football,” Martin told Branch. “So it’s a little bit of a process.”
At the end of this process, the Niners may have found they came up with a prize for very little. A second-round talent for a seventh-round pick is a steal.