The Buccaneers were decimated with injuries in 2013 but fans got some welcomed news this week when running back Doug Martin, who had shoulder surgery last season, tweeted he had been cleared to return to action. Is Carl Nicks next? GM Jason Licht says Tampa Bay is hopeful.
The Buccaneers ended the 2013 season with a number of starters on injured reserve, including wide receiver Mike Williams(hamstring), linebacker Jonathan Casillas(knee) and tight end Tom Crabtree(biceps). All in all, Tampa Bay finished the season with 16 players officially on injured reserve and had two other players, kickers Connor Barth and Lawrence Tynes, on the non-football injury list. Add in Carl Nicks, who was never officially designated to injured reserve, and that makes 19 Buccaneers who finished the season on the list the players, fans and coaches dread the most.
One of the biggest blows the Bucs suffered in 2013 was when starting running back Doug Martin was injured against the Atlanta Falcons attempting to haul in a Mike Glennon pass early in the second half of Tampa Bay’s 31-23 loss on October 20. Martin had successful shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum later in the season.
The Bucs and their fans got some good news this week when Martin tweeted he has the all clear sign and will be ready to go when the Buccaneers return to One Buc Place on April 7 for the beginning of the offseason workouts.
The team showcased Martin last Friday night in the first public unveiling of the new Bucs uniforms. The former Boise State star had rushed for 456 in six games before getting injured in 2013, and was coming off a franchise record-setting rookie season in 2012 where he ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns.
New offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford told the media earlier this year that he wants a 1-2 punch at running back, which should lessen the load somewhat for Martin who totaled 368 touches in 2012, and 144 in 2013 before the injury.
Last week at the NFL owners meetings head coach Lovie Smith talked about Martin and the rotation Tampa Bay will employ this year.
We’re going to lean on one guy, but I like the rotation,” Smith said. “I think you have to have a bell-cow. He’s (Martin) ours. At the running back position, there are enough reps to go along. We want three guys we feel comfortable with. Two will play, but it’s not a rotation that where every series we’re going to have a different guy in there. No, we’ll have a starter then we’ll have a backup that will give him quality backup minutes.”
The Buccaneers do not provide offseason injury updates but general manager Jason Licht told the media in Orlando last week that guard Carl Nicks appears to also be on the mend but stopped short of saying he would be ready for the upcoming offseason workouts.
“(We are) still hopeful,” Licht said. “We are gathering all the information we have with the doctors we have sent him to. He has been rehabbing, things look promising, but we are crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.”
A return of a healthy Nicks would be a big bonus for the Buccaneers. Nicks has played in just nine games for the Buccaneers in the past two seasons after signing a five-year, $47.5 million free agent deal in 2012. The mammoth offensive lineman was hampered by a toe injury midway through the 2012 season that required surgery and then was infected with MRSA last year. Nicks underwent another surgery last fall to try and clean out the antibiotic-resistant infection.
The release of longtime guard Davin Joseph and the trade of center/guard Jeremy Zuttah to the Ravens for a 2015 fifth-round draft pick may be an indication that the Buccaneers are confident Nicks may be on the road to recovery.
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