Despite missing almost his entire rookie season, Martrell Spaight remained dedicated to improving as a player and believes that will only help him in his pursuit for a roster spot in 2016.
Martrell Spaight believes his 2015 season – which was cut short after just one game – could actually pay off in the long run.
Check out these photos of Arkansas linebacker Martrell Spaight, the 141st-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Drafted in the fifth round of last year's NFL Draft, Spaight appeared on just nine special teams plays against the Miami Dolphins in the regular season opener before suffering a season-ending concussion.
While Spaight would have loved the opportunity to make noise as a rookie, especially with the inside linebackers corps marred by injury, he sat back and had a chance to study the NFL game more, including being in meetings from time to time.
"At the end of the day it benefitted me because I got a chance to rest up my body," Spaight said. "And they got the players they needed [in]."
But even though Spaight feels more comfortable in Joe Barry's defense entering his second season, being away from the game he's played since he was little hurt.
"It's tough," Spaight admitted. "You really want to be playing out there as a rookie and I was just going through that whole process which is tough as well. Sitting at home watching the game on TV and wanting to play is tough, but I just wanted to take it as a redshirt year and just prepare myself for this year. Doing things on my own I was still working out, running and getting the whole scheme down of the defense and just jam packing it down until I got it. It has benefits, but it was still a tough time for me."
Spaight returned fully healthy for the team's offseason workouts in April. Currently working with the second-team defense behind Will Compton and Mason Foster during OTAs, Spaight hopes he can produce on a similar level he did when last healthy at Arkansas.
After transferring from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College to Arkansas for his last two collegiate seasons, the six-foot, 238 pounder earned first-team All-SEC honors after totaling an SEC-high 128 tackles during the 2014 season.
But he also understands that there's quite a bit of competition right now.
While Compton and Foster are both coming off strong individual seasons, the team also has longtime starter Perry Riley Jr. on the roster, too, along with a returning Adam Hayward and free agent signing Terence Garvin.
The team has also been using versatile rookie Su'a Cravens – listed as a safety but capable of playing all over the field -- at inside linebacker to start his tenure with the team.
"I feel like it's a make-or -break year for me," Spaight said. "I'm coming out here just getting better day by day and learning and trying to be a great linebacker by learning from the old veterans and see what they do well and what they do wrong and try to implement it to my game so I can be a more complete linebacker. I'm really just learning how to be the quarterback of the defense so every day I come out here and every rep I take I got to be precise."