Doug Martin seems to be back on the right track, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a position to succeed without him.
This side of Adrian Peterson and the New Orleans Saints, perhaps no player was more lauded by his team during offseason work than Doug Martin. Aside from a minor car accident in early May, it’s been all positivity about Martin’s physical condition and mindset after a PED suspension ended his 2016 campaign a game early.
Martin will serve the final three games of that suspension to start the 2017 season. So the Buccaneers are off the hook for whatever’s left of the $15 million in guaranteed money from the five-year, $35.75 million deal he signed last offseason.
During an appearance on the Ira Kaufman Podcast, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter was asked about re-integrating Martin if the Buccaneers’ running game is going well come Week 4.
“Well, you answered your own question,” Koetter said. “That is all hypothetical, all right? Everything — how do I know if everything is going to go that way? Hopefully, at the end of the three games Doug is still in good health. But we have no idea what is going to happen to our other tailbacks by then. So, I don’t spend too much time worrying about that kind of stuff. . . .
“How can you have too many good players? I sort of look at it as we will cross that bridge when we get to it, because, why worry about it until you have to? We have a lot of other stuff that we need to be concerned with. You know, if everything was 100 percent perfect — I don’t have experience with a guy taking three weeks off and then coming back. So, you will have practices in there and we would have to see how we are doing as an offense, how we are doing with our running game. We will just have to see.”
The Buccaneers have good running back depth, with Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers and 2017 fifth-round pick Jeremy McNichols also in place. So Koetter’s unwillingness to fully endorse Martin is not surprising, even though it’s only June and a lot can change between now and when Martin is able to take the field in the regular season.
Martin could be showcased in the Buccaneers’ final preseason game, with the idea of spurring trade interest when he comes back from suspension. If some teams have been hit by injuries in their running back rotation, Martin will be a set of fresh legs only a couple years removed from finishing second in the league in rushing.