Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale feels hurt by McKinney's criticism

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There aren't many things that catch New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale off guard after almost two decades of coaching in the NFL.

Reading postgame comments by safety and co-defensive captain Xavier McKinney's that the coaching staff was neither letting the leaders lead nor listening to team leaders and captains was upsetting, the 60-year-old said Thursday before the Giants (2-7) practiced for Sunday's game at Dallas (5-3).

“I mean it surprised me because it’s the first time it’s ever happened in my career,” said Martindale, who is in his 19th season in the NFL and 36th overall.

McKinney didn't speak with reporters on Thursday. In an interview with ESPN on Sunday following the Giants' 30-6 loss to the Raiders in Las Vegas, McKinney complained about the captains not being heard.

"I think that from a leadership standpoint, I don’t think they’ve done a great job of letting the leaders lead, and listening to the leaders and the captains,” McKinney said, noting the coaches didn't make an adjustment the defensive players wanted.

“It was one of those things where you have some of your leaders, captains from a defensive standpoint, trying to switch things up,” McKinney added. “And just not really being heard.”

Martindale said he has discussed the comments with McKinney and his defense since the team returned from the trip. He said McKinney had a hard time explaining what he felt was wrong and he felt their differences were over an adjustment on one play late in a game, which puzzled him.

But it was clear Martindale was hurt by the comments. His eyes welled several times during his weekly interview with reporters.

“It did because I’ve always been open, I’ve always been honest with players," Martindale said. "I think if you have a problem, it’s just how we handle things in that room.”

Martindale said he ends every meeting with his unit asking if anyone has any problem either on or off the field, and his players have had an good exchanges with the coach.

Looking back on the incident, Martindale said it's a sign of a player frustrated by the team not meeting expectations after making the playoffs a year ago.

He refused to say whether McKinney would face any discipline, but coach Brian Daboll said McKinney would be in the starting lineup Sunday. He led the team with 10 tackles Sunday.

“I said it before here, I love this group that we have,” Martindale said. “We’ve played really good defense for the last month prior to Vegas, and I expect us to continue to just keep getting better. And fix the things, it’s more technique stuff in this last game in the first half that got us, but I expect us to keep getting better.”

Outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, who started practicing this week after missing four games on injured reserve, is hopeful he will play on Sunday.

Cornerback Adoree Jackson remains in the concussion protocol and has not practiced this week.