Martin hopes suspension doesn’t cost him further

by Gary Shelton on July 31, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Martin will start the season watching others run the ball./CARMEN MANDATO

Martin will start the season watching others run the ball./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 3 a.m.

For a man with nowhere to go, Doug Martin seems to be in a hurry.

The players around him go through their paces quickly. They have less than two weeks before the preseason begins, some six weeks before the start of the regular season. There are places, like the end zone, to go. There are people, like opponents, to see.

Then there is Martin.

Who is going to be running in place for some time to come.

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Adam Humphries makes a catch for Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Adam Humphries makes a catch for Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Martin will be on the shelf for two more months now. He will be suspended for the first three weeks of the regular season, meaning he won't be back until the Oct. 1 game against the New York Giants. For the time being, he is a running back in limbo, a player destined to be on the outside for weeks.

Martin has only himself to blame, of course. He tested positive for drugs late last season. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season. Yet, the Bucs remained firmly in Martin's corner, not signing a free agent and not drafting a running back  until they picked Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round.

In other words, Martin should be the happiest camper in Bucs' camp. The team was within its rights to turn him lose and proceed, and the fans would have applauded. He found a team that will wait for him.

“I have to approach this like any other season. I will be out those three games, that’s the reality of the situation,” Martin said. “During those

Aguayo is battling for his placekicking job./CARMEN MANDATO

Aguayo is battling for his placekicking job./CARMEN MANDATO

three weeks, I’m going to prepare myself to get my legs back under me and get ready to play. Me and my people are going to come up with a regimen on what needs to be done during those three weeks.

“This is my first time doing it and my last time. We’re definitely going to make sure my regimen is equal to the amount of work that should be done. We’re going to get it right, I’m going to get it right for the season when I come back from the suspension.”

Martin has been a mixed bag as a pro. He was a great as a rookie (1,400 yards), and in his fourth year, he was second in the NFL (with another 1,400 yards). But in the other three, he's been under 500 yards in each. Last year, he averaged only 2.9 yards per carry.

“You know, I have a chip on my shoulder,” Martin said. “I just went out during the offseason and worked my butt off. I know this is going to be a big year for us. I have a lot to owe to this team and I can’t wait to get back out there.”

The Bucs, however, aren't guaranteeing anything to Martin upon his return. Why should they? Regardless, the job might not be Martin's.

Winston enters his third season with more than 8,000 yards./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston enters his third season with more than 8,000 yards./CARMEN MANDATO

"It might not," Bucs' general manager Jason Licht said. "Look, he has done everything we've asked him to do, and he looks reminiscent of 2015 when he was playing for his contract. He looks the same out there, mentally and physically. So he might be one of those guys that needs a carrot. And he's got a pretty big carrot in front of him right now, because there's no guarantees that he's going to be here. And he knows that. We've talked to him, and he's good with it. He goes, 'I understand.'"

For the Bucs, the immediate future seems to be in the hands of Jacquizz Rodgers, who has never started more than five games in a season. After that is Charles Sims, a better receiver than a runner, and rookie McNichols and second-year back Peyton Barber.

Three days into training camp, however, Koetter is cautious about McNichols.

"I think it's still just a little bit early. We've got two or three guys coming off

Mike Evans hopes to make another Pro Bowl./CARMEN MANDATO

Mike Evans hopes to make another Pro Bowl./CARMEN MANDATO

surgeries, first day putting the shoulder pads on. In what we're doing, Jeremy looks fine but it's just probably a little early yet. We're happy he's out there working."

Said Martin: “We have a lot of weapons. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do. You see what they’ve been doing in practice. It’s definitely going to spread defenses out and we’ll be able to run that rock, so I can’t wait.”

For the Bucs, Martin has been a challenge. The team, recognizing his talent, chose to hang onto him. But playing without him for three weeks won't be easy.

"That's what they told me. I can only control everything that I can control right now -- just show up to camp, play hard and show them that I can continue to be that starting back,” Martin said to ESPN. “And when the time comes when I come back, we'll see what happens. So it's still in the air. It's still in the air. I'm hopeful, and we'll see what happens. I just show them what I'm capable of doing, and that's 2012 Doug, that's 2015 Doug. And if I do that, everything else will fall into place. So we'll see."

Can Martin chase down his old self?

Well, not until he starts running again.

O.J. Howard after a catch for Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

O.J. Howard after a catch for Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

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