LB Blake Martinez joins Panthers after Pokémon card scandal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Linebacker Blake Martinez, who announced his unretirement earlier this year amid a Pokémon card scandal, on Tuesday was signed to the practice squad of the injury-plagued Carolina Panthers.

Martinez, 29, last played for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022. He retired in November of that season, announcing his decision to leave the game on social media.

“I had an amazing journey with some incredible franchises, and made lifelong friendships,” he wrote. “I have chosen to step away from this career at this time to focus on my family and future passions! I am excited for this new journey and appreciate all the fans and organizations that have supported me throughout the years!”

He retired to focus on his business of selling Pokémon and sports trading cards, called Blake’s Breaks. CNBC referred to Martinez’s venture as a “side hustle” that, according to documents obtained by the organization, brought in more than $8.3 million in revenue.

One rare Pokémon card reportedly went for $672,000.

Martinez sold his cards on Whatnot, an online social marketplace that allows users to sell products to each other.

In August, he was “permanently” removed from the site and accused of scamming buyers.

“After a comprehensive investigation into [Blake’s Breaks’] operations, we have decided to permanently remove the seller from our platform,” the site said in a statement.

Martinez was a fourth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2016 when Carolina senior defensive consultant Dom Capers was the defensive coordinator there and running the 3-4 scheme now used by the Panthers.

Playing inside linebacker, he led the team in tackles in 2017 with 144.

He joins a Carolina team that will play Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Bears without outside linebacker Brian Burns (concussion) and two other outside linebackers in Justin Houston and Yetur Gross-Matos, both on injured reserve.

Martinez’s presence could open the door for inside linebacker Frankie Luvu to play more outside. The Panthers also could have edge rusher Marquis Haynes Sr. back from injury.

Reich noted Monday that Martinez knows the 3-4 system run by coordinator Ejiro Evero, a disciple of Capers. He did not speculate on whether Martinez could be ready to play by Thursday.

“We’ll get him on the practice squad and see where it goes from there,” he said.

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