Tampa Bay Bucs running back Doug Martin spoke to the media after practice Thursday for the first time since last season’s tumultuous ending.
“It was a journey. It was,” Martin said, referencing his bout with addiction that resulted in a three-game suspension. “With the statement [last year] … I knew I had to go get help. It was a journey of self-development. I learned a lot about myself. I was lucky to have the support of my family and friends, the fans and teammates all around me and I’m glad to be back here.”
Martin played only eight games last year after surpassing 1,400 yards for the second time in his career in 2015. That season earned the 28-year-old a five-year, $35.75 million deal, but more injuries and the substance abuse issue have made Bucs fans question his future with the organization.
After allowing Martin to enter a rehab facility and address his addiction, the franchise responded by standing with him, but also using a fifth-round draft pick to select Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols.
When asked about his level of trust in Martin bouncing back from last season and the suspension, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he expects a motivated No. 22 throughout offseason workouts and beyond.
“I think just from my own experience, when Doug’s practicing like this – when he’s finishing plays, when’s he’s got that burst, he’s got that pep in his step – it’s carried over to the field,” Koetter said. “We have a ways to go. We have to get through preseason, we have to get through preseason games healthy, Doug’s got to stay healthy – there are more things that have to happen. Time is on our side. I know everyone wants to know, they’re anxious to know, but there’s just nothing to know right now. We just have to wait this out.”
Injuries plagued Bucs running backs throughout the 2016 season and Martin still finished as the team’s second leading rusher with 421 yards and three touchdowns on 144 carries. Including quarterback Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay’s top five rushers in terms of yardage are still with the team: Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Barber and Charles Sims. They are joined on the offseason roster by McNichols and fellow rookie Quayvon Hicks, Russell Hansbrough and Blake Sims.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht addressed the Martin situation during the NFL Draft last month.
“We’ve been happy with the trajectory he’s on,’’ Licht said. “I’ve said that before but it’s the truth. He has the right mindset right now and he looks good physically. We still have some time there but just two years ago he was the second leading rusher in the NFL. Within the building here, we feel comfortable with our guys, and that includes Doug.’’
Martin said he’s put his substance abuse issues behind him and is focused on moving forward and getting ready for the upcoming season.
“It’s behind me; it’s definitely behind me,” Martin said. “I’m just coming out here practicing my best and doing my best to help this team.
“It was hard to be away from my friends and family but I found strength in the people I was with. [Rehab] was definitely worth it. I definitely turned a negative into a positive and I’m definitely a better person because of it.”
Martin was also asked about his troublesome hamstrings, which caused him to miss stretches of games throughout his five-year career.
“The hamstring feels good,” he said. “I did have that injury last year and then I aggravated it about two or three weeks into my recovery. I was out another two or three weeks after that but it feels good right now. I’m not worried about it. I’m keeping track of it and making sure I stretch it out and making sure that I’m hydrated and it feels good. I began to feel better a long time ago when I was training in the offseason.”